New Delhi, May 4: The Chief Ministers of the Northeastern states of India on Friday raised several issues pertaining to the growth and development of their respective states and the region as a whole through the effective implementation of the Act East Policy, which would boost trade and cultural relations with Asia- Pacific countries.
External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj today met the Chief Ministers of Northeastern states to take the NDA Government’s ambitious initiative ‘Act East Policy’ to the ground. The government not only wants to build highways to transport goods from the region to east and south Asian countries but also air linkages, internet connectivity, better educational institutions for skill development and growth of the region.
Swaraj said the state governments of the northeastern region were active stakeholders in India’s Act East Policy.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, she said that “greater connectivity and economic integration of India’s northeast with its eastern neighbours was considered a key focus area for growth and development of the region”.
“India’s Act East Policy had received a major boost following the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India Commemorative Summit, which was held in New Delhi on January 25, 2018,” the statement said.
“Continued development of relevant infrastructure both within the state and at international borders was also discussed with a view to enhancing trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people ties,” the statement said.
The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been focusing more on the development of the northeastern region. The Assam government even constituted an Act East Policy department. The External Affairs Minister said that state governments of the Northeastern region were active stakeholders in India’s Act East Policy. Greater connectivity and economic integration of India’s North East with its eastern neighbours was considered a key focus area for growth and development of the region.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma today said that there were challenges in implementation of Act East Policy and continuous engagement with other North Eastern States and Centre is required to take the Act East Policy forward, which would boost trade and cultural relations with Asia – Pacific countries.
Speaking at an interactive session, Meghalaya Chief Minister pushed the idea of state level planning and action to chart out road map for effective implementation of Act East Policy.
“Though North East has been clubbed as one region. However, every policy will not suit each other. Hence, a suitable approach was required, which can be arrived at with State level consultation and combined consultation amongst States which shares border with its neigbouring South Asian countries”, the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister said that the engagement with External Affairs Minister and his counterpart was fruitful as they were able to come together and bring forward their ideas on how to move forward in the implementation of the ambitious Act East Policy.
During the interactive session, Conrad Sangma urged the Central Government to enhance road connectivity in North East with four-lane route amongst all the eight States of the region as well as with the neigbouring countries.
“I have urged the Centre to convene more such meetings at Regional and State level that would enable the North Eastern States to understand each other and come up with appropriate action plans for effective implementation of Act East Policy”, the Chief Minister informed.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put development of Northeast region at the heart of the Act East Policy which has greatly increased people to people contact, trade and other relations with the ASEAN countries.
He elaborated on the positional advantage of the region to become the new growth hub of trade, tourism and cultural exchange taking advantage of over 4500 km of international boundary it shares with neighbouring countries.
Pitching strongly for improved connectivity and communication infrastructure for furthering relations with the South East Asian region, Sonowal called for improved airways, roadways, waterways, railways and information ways in this region. He also stated that starting of direct flights connecting the region with the capitals of South East Asian countries would play a vital role in making the region a lucrative destination for potential investors and he urged MEA to contribute an amount of Rs 100 crore from ASEAN India Fund for viability gap funding to start flights from Guwahati to Singapore, Dhaka, Bangkok, Mandalay or Yangon in addition to the Rs 100 crore committed by Assam government for the purpose.
He also spoke about the urgent need for early completion of the Asian Trilateral Highway as well as the reopening of the Stillwell Road upto Kunming in China and importance of connecting the waterways of Barak, Brahmaputra and Kushiyara rivers with Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh through dredging at an early date.
Tripura Chief Minister, Biplab Kumar Deb has raised the issue of removal of port restriction imposed by Bangladesh to improve export of Tripura to Bangladesh. He has also demanded operationalisation of Chittagong Port which is just 76 kilometres away of Tripura. Delay in implementation of BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) Motor Vehicle Agreement was also taken up by him.
The CM also requested the Swaraj to get permission of setting up more Border Haats. Shifting border fencing in Manughat was also discussed.
Sources said that promotion of investment in the region, activation of Land Customs by Bangladesh, construction of bridge over Feni River and construction four-lane highway, waterways connectivity between Bangladesh and northeastern region, more regional passport offices in the region, removal of special permission to enter India through Tripura and better internet connectivity were some of the issue that were also discussed.
The meeting deliberated on the North Eastern region’s intra-regional and sub-regional surface and air linkages, focusing on seamless connectivity with its contiguous neighbourhood. Continued development of relevant infrastructure both within the state and at international borders was also discussed with a view to enhancing trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people ties.
Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman, Niti Aayog; Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam; N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur; Conrad Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya; Neiphiu Rio, Chief Minister of Nagaland; Biplab Kumar Deb, Chief Minister of Tripura; Chowna Mein, Deputy Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh and Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh participated in this meeting. (Agencies)