Thoughts from Sri Ajit Doval

I would have very much liked that I got associated with you during a meeting that was more real than virtual but I think the problems of poverty have deprived us of that opportunity. We are trying to adjust to these new realities. My profound thanks to Sri Balakrishnanji and Kumari Niveditaji for inviting me for this webinar and giving me this opportunity to be here with you. It’s a very special occasion because this is a part of year -long celebrations being carried out by the Vivekananda kendra to celebrate the completion of Vivekananda Rock Memorial and also highlighting the important milestone in the activities of the Vivekananda Kendra.

Friends today’s subject is of very special importance to me. Actually, I had the occasion of being associated with the Northeast. In early years of my career and in the early 70s almost about half a century back, I had the occasion of serving in the region for seven years. It was a great opportunity for me. I became a witness to see many developments there, the insurgencies, the peace talks, the Mizoram accord, merger Sikkim and so many other events which gave me a certain insight and a certain understanding of the region. It was very eventful seven years of my life. The fact that after I had completed my career sometimes in late 2006 or early 2007, I got associated with Vivekananda Kendra and nearly for seven years I remained associated with Vivekananda Kendra and from 2009 when Vivekananda International Foundation was formally launched, I was grateful that Vivekananda Kendra decided to give me an opportunity to work in that organization and I worked with that organization from 2009 to 2014. 

It could just be a coincidence or it could be a providence that both the Northeast and the Vivekananda Kendra synchronized with my lifespan one at the beginning, another at the end. It also is a good coincidence that Vivekananda kendra moved into the Northeast almost at the same time. I’ve agreed that earlier they had been serving there from 1974 and doing a great service to the people of that region, but I had the occasion of being there almost at the same time.

My days with the Vivekananda Kendra and Vivekananda International Foundation were very memorable and eventful years of my career. I’ve learnt a lot from close association with stalwarts of the Vivekananda Kendra like late Mananeeya Sri Parameswaranji, Adarniya Balakrishnanji, Adarniya Gurumurthyji, Kumari Niveditaji and many others. It was a very unique experience for me to see the sense of dedication, selfless sacrifice, organizing capability and the leadership qualities to motivate the people and bring them together on a common platform and give them a cause for life. They are able to bring in the spirit that Swami Vivekananda wanted every Indian to be charged with the number of people that they wish to motivate and not only in the national mainstream but also far from this they work in difficult areas, so for this commendable job, I think they need to be complemented but personally I feel it had been a very happy experience to see such modest people doing such outstanding work. 

Well friends, I don’t have to emphasize the importance of Northeast. You know in our Hindu tradition, out of the eight directions the most sacred and auspicious is the direction of Northeast. It is associated with Lord Shiva. It is something which symbolizes goodness, prosperity, virtues, and spirituality in life.  A nation is also like a house. Just like in Vastu, the Northeast part of a house is very important, similarly, in case of the nations too, the Northeast direction is always important. That is what I strongly believe. So, our northeast has got to be seen by us as something which is the “Ishan kon” of our national Vastu. It is very unique and special part of India where there are a lot of opportunities, a lot challenges and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. As you are aware Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions of the world in terms of its economy, new opportunities in that area are coming out. Our connectivity with the Southeast Asia has not been very high. If we look at India’s map then actually calling India a South Asian country is not very correct. If we take the width and length that passes through Allahabad and Chennai from our history, we find that many of the South Asian East Asian states are nearer to us or that probably the more remote of the West. So, we are as much as Southeast Asian countries, but we also share the common American order with them. We share heritage and historical ideals with them, there are a lot of economic and developmental problems with them which are almost common and so the interaction between Southeast Asia and India is going to be something of great importance in times ahead.

Now that the government of India in the last six years have made 34 roads to develop the connectivity between Southeast Asia so that we can move or travel, we can go by road from here to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and further up to Vietnam after some time. So, that will open up the entire region. It also connects to the Buddhist pilgrimage sites, the Buddhists who have been living in the Northeast region will be the biggest beneficiary of this. This region also is endowed with very rich forest as well as mineral wealth and many of the nature’s biodiversity which makes it very unique in our nation. But I think the most important part of the Northeast region is its unique human resource. The people living in this region are simple, God-loving, hard-working, highly reliable and great innovators. They have got the great capacity to survive amongst the vagaries and the difficulties of the nature. It is the hope and it is the feeling that I very strongly like to share with you that people of this region would be able to contribute to this country’s future in a very great way in the times ahead. 

Unfortunately, there were certain developments due to which this region could not contribute or come into the national mainstream the way it should be. To begin with, we started with some problems of land order, security issues (due to insurgencies) and these insurgent groups brought the people in contact with only two sets of people, one was the soldier and another was money lenders. Vivekananda Kendra people were, I think one of the first who have moved into that area and worked with the people in their schools, in their homes and there providing medical facilities to them and providing all the help whatever could be in providing them the right type of guidance. The setting of Northeast is a huge landmark. It’s a two lakhs sixty-two thousand square kilometers land, its geographical expanse is bigger than Bangladesh and you’ll be surprised to know that there are 120 countries in the world whose area is less than that of the Northeast. And not only that it has got a large area, but also it has got a very rich area. Rich in biodiversity, rich in flora and fauna, rich in wildlife, rich in tourist destinations, bring in tourist destinations which probably aren’t properly developed as it has got the places with the largest rainfalls and great jungles and others which I think can all be of great importance. 

Topographically, it possesses some unique features like it has got a long border of five thousand one hundred and sixty kilometers out of which five thousand one hundred and forty -three kilometers border is with the foreign countries. It is only 27 kilometers border that is with India. This 0.5 percent connectivity with India what we call the chicken neck adds to the vulnerability of security of this region. We have China in the north with which we have got nearly 1300 kilometers long border and which we have got an under-marketed border which often is a matter of great security problem for us.  But besides that, we have got problems of drug trading from the Golden Crescent and from the Golden Triangle; we have got a problem of insurgencies, gun running, smuggling, human trafficking and a host of these problems which add to the security vulnerability of this area. Now this presents a great challenge and we have to find the right solutions for the state. Another problem of the area is that its terrain has been mountainous and rugged with very limited means of transport and communication with 84 percent of its population living in hamlets and villages which are not connected by road or electricity. Communication has created a certain amount of a gap between the national ministry and the people and due to lack of this connectivity, the rate of development of growth is this region is slow. The human resource development also got slowed down and it was all compounded by the fact of the bad security situation.  Fortunately, in last few years, commendable progress has been made in dealing with these problems. Today the insurgency is a very small segment of what was our legacy. The numbers of incidents of violence during the last six years have become less than 20 percent than what existed in 2014. It’s matter of satisfaction that in this period there has been 89 percent depreciation in civilian deaths and injury so almost and in most of the states now the security situation has considerably improved. With a large number of insurgent groups eighter the peace talks have been held and closed successfully or they are in advanced stage of negotiations so we are sure that this area will become a very peaceful area once again that will give a new impetus and speed to the progress and development of this area. Its result was a matter of great satisfaction that the NRC was exercised and carried out in Assam successfully without any incident. It was a commendable effort that despite some propaganda which was carried out to create dissatisfaction amongst the people, the people were able to understand about the governments’ intentions and its capabilities to see that no innocent person is harassed.

Unfortunately, the people in nest and rest of India has got their perceptions about Northeast in terms of its security problems or the connectivity or the natural resources or from a developmental perspective of it but that is one element and that probably they are not very well informed about the people which is the most important asset of this area. They are good people with great values, great promise, the discipline of the communities and the villages that they live, the respect they give to their elders in front of the ‘Gaonburhas’ and village headman and the tribal chiefs and others. So, it’s a very homogeneous society, it is a society despite the tribal differences but within the tribe there are very strong paternal feelings and they are very warm fun-loving people. Now despite all, certain influences on the minds of these simple people made them remain aloof from joining the national institute which should have happened otherwise to them. I ‘m very happy that Vivekananda Kendra has been focusing on this aspect of the Northeast. The aspect concerning the development of human resources, the development of human beings i.e. in the field of education in the last   46 years have been a great work in the field of education. They are running 69 educational institutions from primary to the college education, including some B.Ed and nursing colleges etc. They have also been working in the field of hospital, they’re having 230 Anandalayas for the tea garden children. They have been carrying out the rural development work and agricultural activities in these rural areas. Health centres, two hospitals, mobile medical events, nutritious food, periodical medical camps had been carried out in a very sustained way carrying the message of the life and thoughts of Swami Vivekananda to the people through youth camps, yoga activities etc. It has done tremendous good to the people and their thinking about their exposure. Well friends, this is a very important area of the country, if you are thinking of a very strong, powerful and prosperous foreign import in India that would be able to provide the leadership to the community of nation. We must focus on these areas of our country where probably we’ve still not been able to join them into the mainstream in the way they could have and we have encouraged the people who are voluntarily working in a very sustained and very planned and organized way.

There are many who can wish, there are many who would like to do but there are only few who venture out and do that and I must say that the Vivekananda Kendra is one institution which had been carrying out with visionaries.

I also went to the middle-east and to the Northeast in the early 70s and a few years later probably Vivekananda Kendra also join, but there’s a big difference. I was almost a mercenary, being a paid employee under this. Probably we also had the feelings of nationalism and federalism but of course one of the things is that you were in government center working there, but the people who came from Vivekananda Kendra were total missionaries. I was very happy that at the end of my career I found that I converted to their mindset and I’m happy that they do not convert the mind, it is very good what they are carrying out now. I do hope and I do wish that they will continue their activities in this region and particularly focus on the Northeast region since in another five years to the years they are going to be extremely important for future. This region is going to get connectivity with the international industry; with Southeast Asia, it is going to have the roads and the network of routes that are coming up, a lot of developmental activities that have been initiated under the ministry of Delhi. Ther are so many other initiatives that have been taken and the insurgency is almost to an end now. The law and order are in a much better state, so we know this is an area which is free from crime. People do not indulge in normal crimes that people are used to. Instead, they have done and made great careers for themselves, there have been people in the organizations and there have been people in the sport, for example – there have been very well aware football team and others from Manipur. Not many people know about their contribution in India’s independence movement and it is the people of Assam who really fought and were able to stop the march of the Mughals to the East and they were great warriors and they are very brave. Some of them have joined Indian Army and the forces, we find that they are one of our best soldiers, they are very intelligent and brave, disciplined, values come to them very automatically. So, I’m very happy that Vivekananda Kendra is working in this area and I do hope that all of us who are attending this webinar and people even beyond that will help them do the handholding and do whatever they can, giving them encouragement, they need recognition, recommendation and also the hand holding, whatever we can do for them. Thank you very much to the organization.

Thank you very much.


Sri Ajit Doval is the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. He is the founder Director of Vivekananda International Foundation, a think tank of India based in Delhi. He has also acted as the Chairman of the same from 2009 to 2014.