By Oken Jeet Sandham
KOHIMA, Sept 22 (NEPS): Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang said India’s Act East Policy (AEP) should aim to achieve “better connectivity” for the North East region.
Addressing at the inaugural session of 4th North East Connectivity Summit held here at the NBCC Convention Center on Friday, the Chief Minister said the most practicable and convenient road and rail connectivity between India and South East Asian countries should run through Nagaland to Moreh border town via Imphal, the route for which the battle of Kohima was fought during the World War II. He added that they could access to markets of South East Asian countries through Myanmar and therefore they needed people to people contact with Myanmar.
This Two-Day Summit was organized under the theme “Act East Through Nagaland” at the NBCC Convention Center, Kohima and will conclude on 23 September 2017.
Stating that Nagaland shares around 215 km of International border and the eight States of North East together share over 5300 km of border with five different countries, Zeliang explained that this long stretch of International border provided them with an “opportunity to transform our economies by developing connectivity with these countries.” “Connectivity is a critical issue that impacts economic development across the world,” he said.
Given the geographic position of the region, with the right focus on the development of connectivity infrastructure and cooperation with neighboring countries, he further stated that North East could easily become a “major trading and economic hub” connecting South East Asia and the ASEAN countries. “To do this, however, massive investments are required in infrastructure, connectivity and processing industry,” he added.
He also said North East region was landlocked, except Assam, therefore air and road connectivity became the feasible options, and people had been using roads mostly because of the poor air connectivity.
Sharing his experiences while traveling on six-lane roads in South- East Asia, Zeliang said good roads with beautiful green landscapes on both sides have reached their borders and it should be connected to mainland India by mending the bottlenecks in North-East roads like the stretch from Imphal to Kohima.
He mentioned that the dreams of Look East Policy could have been materialized if there were more summits like the North East Connectivity. North East had “huge potential with rich forest and natural resources, high literacy rate with a vast reservoir of educated and dynamic workforce, fluent in English, progressive in outlook and IT savvy, besides huge tourism potential in Nagaland remained dormant, he added.
Chief Secretary Nagaland, Pankaj Kumar IAS in his opening remark said the improvement in connectivity with Myanmar and beyond would unlock the potential of trade and commerce which would require strengthening of infrastructure and manpower at trade point. He commented that people to people connectivity which is significant not only from the perspective of the traditional affinity of the communities on both sides of the international border with Myanmar but also for tourism. “Socio-economic development with the improvement of connectivity in North East would bring more optimistic and peaceful environment unlashing the potential of people,” he said.
Kenko Sone, Minister, Economics Embassy of Japan, speaking at the summit said North Eastern Region was located at a strategically and economically important place between India and Southeast Asia as well as within BIMSTEC countries, therefore, Japan had placed a particular importance on the cooperation in North Eastern Region.
He added that Japan Government to encourage cultural cooperation and further added that under the “IRIS Program,” they would invite 25 young people from Manipur and Nagaland this year to Japan.
Connectivity should ensure the development of all countries and use of connectivity infrastructure should be open, transparent and non-exclusive manner based on international standards, he commented. He further added that in addition to infrastructure Japan wished to explore cooperation on business development and connect the region to other parts of the country or neighboring nations.
Japan had been undertaking extensive cooperation in North Eastern Region, ranging from road network connectivity, energy, water supply and sewage, forest resource management, biodiversity, to people-to-people exchange, Japanese language education and post-war reconciliation, he said.
Secretary, North Eastern Council, Ram Muivah, in his address, highlighted the achievements of NEC since its inception. He said only three out of the eight capitals in North East States – Agartala, Guwahati and Itanagar are connected by broad gauge link. He expressed hope that Imphal would be connected by 2018 and Aizwal and Kohima by 2019.
Muivah said proposed Greenfield Airports at Rüzhaphema and Itanagar needed to be taken up expeditiously while completion of Pakyong Airport should be expedited at the earliest. He also stressed on more commercial flights to different South East Asian countries at the earliest. “North East States have missed Green revolution as well as IT revolution, (and) now is the time for Infrastructure revolution and we should not miss the bus this time”, he stated.
The program was chaired by Arun Chawla, Deputy Secretary General FICCI and Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman FICCI-NEAC gave the concluding remark. Welcome speech was delivered by Dr Sanjay Baru Secretary general FICCI. Short speeches were given by Amar Abrol, CEO Air Asia, Parthasapathy IFS Joint Secretary MEA, PD Sona Parliamentary Secretary, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier Chief Minster released knowledge paper and passed the Baton to Arunachal Pradesh where the 5th Summit will be held next year.
This Press Release was sent by NEPS, who can be contacted at nepsonline(at)yahoo(dot)com.