Act East Policy must act in the real sense: Shashi Tharoor

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GUWAHATI, May 28: Lok Sabha MP and chairman of the parliamentary committee on external affairs Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the Act East Policy needs to start ‘acting’ to pave the way for the region’s progress.
“The northeast should be given a chance to gain from economic relations with southeast Asian countries. We do have an Act East Policy (which was the Look East Policy under the UPA government), but it needs to ‘act’ in the real sense,” Tharoor said at an interactive session at the North East Institute of Advanced Studies here on Sunday. He added that there is a need to open up the region through improved infrastructure connectivity and economic links to the southeast Asian countries.
“The other day, I was discussing with Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma how opening consular offices of southeast Asian countries and Nepal in the northeastern states would help the region strengthen relations with these countries,” Tharoor said. During the Advantage Assam conclave here in February, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had appealed to Asean leaders to open consulate offices of their respective countries in Guwahati. Among neighbouring countries, only Bhutan and Bangladesh have consulate offices here at present.
Tharoor launched a scathing attack on four years of Narendra Modi’s rule, saying, “There is a buzz surrounding a phrase the Prime Minister stressed on from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day last year – ‘New India’. What exactly is the ‘New India’ he was urging us to create?” The reality, Tharoor added, is that of a narrow-minded majoritarianism being driven by a political belief that has divided the people
“My problem with the advocacy of ‘New India’ is that it challenges the ground rules that have held India together. My India celebrates diversity and common differences. Retaining the pluralistic ethos is my idea of a ‘New India’. We cannot be straitjacketed into a majoritarian form of nationalism,” Tharoor said.
Lashing out at the NDA’s demonetization and GST, the former diplomat said the decisions have led to “unmitigated disaster”.
“Thousands of micro-entrepreneurs have shut down their business because of demonetization, while GST has given more pain than gain. When we were in power, we also wanted to introduce GST by abolishing all taxes and make have ‘one-nation-one-tax’ in the real sense. But, under the present dispensation we see that instead of a one-tax regime, there are three taxes. The sleek horse that we wanted has become an ugly camel,” Tharoor said. There has been little job creation under the present government and the manufacturing sector has also experienced a sharp fall, he added. (TNN)