ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The border of north-eastern India: British economic and military interest


Dasgupta Molly - University of Turin, Department of Culture, Politics and Society, Turin, Italy


16 – Re-orienting Borderlands:Beyond spatial fixations in South Asia


┬áThis research abstract focuses on the economic and military significance of the partition history of Bengal and North-East India. The north-eastern regions hold economic importance due to its proximity to five neighboring countries and its role as a gateway to Southeast Asia. The British recognized this and established the Dibrugarh-Chattogram rail link to facilitate global trade. After the first Anglo-Burma war in 1826, the British annexed Assam, Arakan, and Tenasserim. The discovery of petroleum in the Assam-Arakan region attracted international investment for exploration. As reported by Arupjyoti Saikia in her article “Imperialism, Geology, and Petroleum: History of Oil in Colonial Assam,” by the end of the 19th century, Assam’s oilfields had become a significant part of the British imperial economy. The strategic positioning of the north-eastern states also provides a buffer against China and Myanmar. As noted by D. Balla in his book “Strategic Significance of North East India,” the emergence of China as a powerful nation in the early 20th century became a crucial concern for the territorial integrity of the British empire. This led to the creation of the McMahon Line, a border between India and Tibet. The north-eastern states played a key role in the British strategy and the establishment of the McMahon Line. The current research presents the economic and defense prospects of the region that led to the partition of India in 1947.