A track-II initiative between sister cities Kolkata and Kunming has urged India and China to open the proposed BCIM economic corridor to boost regional tourism.
The K2K (Kolkata-Kunming) Forum said in a joint statement at the end of its 10th annual conference here that 2015 would be the 70th anniversary of the end of Second World War in Asia.
"On the century of First World War, France, Belgium and other European countries have experienced huge boost to tourism. Tens of thousands have flocked to Somme, Verdun or Ypres and that has boosted local economies. We want that to happen here," said K2K secretary general Binoda Mishra.
Some of the fiercest battles of the Second World War were fought in the proposed BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) corridor that seeks to connect Kolkata with Kunming through Bangladesh, northeast India and upper Myanmar. The Kohima-Imphal highway marked one of the turning points of the War, because the Allied forces held that line and started pushing the Japanese back, like the Russians did from Stalingrad.
"Much adventure tourism and war nostalgia tourism is possible on sites like the Kohima-Imphal highway and the Stillwell Road and also battlefields of Up;per Myanmar. These are backward regions and a huge tourist inflow would boost their economies," said Kunming-based tourism and culture exchange expert Tony Xiao.
He said not only Chinese and Indians, but also Japanese, Americans and British tourists would rush to these sites.
When asked about the poor tourism infrastructure , Xiao said tourists flocking to Second World War sites "won't be seeking five star hotels".
"Tour operators who can pitch military tents, provide clean water and food and proper sanitation would be in business. They could hire them from the armies of India, China and Myanmar and set up camps as armies do. Tourists can go round the sites and watch war films at night to relieve the experience," he said.
For K2K organisers like Kong Can, who headed the Chinese delegation, opening the tourism corridor for a year would be "a good way to test the viability of the BCIM economic corridor".
"Once the war nostalgia tourism works, the diverse ethnic mosaic of northeast India, upper Myanmar and Yunnan could all be showcased to attract tourists from across the world."
Trade, transport and tourism have been already declared as the thrust areas of the four-nation BCIM.
India and China agreed to explore ways to make this proposed BCIM economic corridor a reality during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's India visit in May last year. A Joint Study Group was set up between the two countries during former Indian premier Manmohan Singh's China visit in October, 2013.
Though the grouping includes Myanmar and Bangladesh, China and India hold the key to the success of the grouping. The BCIM issue, Chinese analysts feel, did not get the kind of importance Beijing expected during President Xi Jinping's visit to India this year.
"We expect more forward movement on the BCIM economic corridor and we look forward to positive response from Delhi," said former Chinese ambassador to India Zhou Gang.
"Delhi is somewhat wary and will take its time to respond," says Rahul Mishra of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA). "It has some bonafide concerns that needs to be addressed."
Binoda Mishra sees BCIM as a gradual engagement and insists K2K is the way to take the four-nation process forward.
"The way to do it is exploring by trial. Let us try this war nostalgia tourism and ethnic tourism endeavours and see how it goes."
Tea planter Rajiv Lochan, a regular at K2K forums, insists tea corridor tourism will also attract niche tourists from all over the world.
"Beginning with Darjeeling and passing through Assam, it could end in Yunnan, famous for its Puer tea. Tourists can get a total tea experience stretching from Darjeeling and Assam and ending with Puer tea in Yunnan."
"Tourism rather than manufacturing holds the key to the success of this BCIM econiomic corridor," says former Assam tourism official Smita Mishra.
-- Indo-Asian News Service