New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Saturday said the northeastern states will become the torchbearer of new India as the country prepares to celebrate the 75th year of its Independence in 2022.
Addressing a seminar organised by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), he said in the post-COVID era, India’s Economic Resurgence will not be complete unless it takes care of the vast unexplored potential and resources of the northeastern region.
Singh, the Minister of State for the Development of North East Region (DoNER), said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who gave the vision ‘Act East’ soon after assuming power in 2014, thus imparting a new push to the approach and focus to relations with the neighbouring countries, which was earlier known as Look East Policy.
Addressing the seminar ‘Act East Policy: Enhancing Trade Infrastructure and Connectivity in the North Eastern Region’ organised by ICRIER, he said the northeast will be the new engine of growth for new India.
Ever since Modi took over as prime minister, he has accorded a special priority to the development of the northeastern region of India, Singh said.
He said this also assumes importance because if India has to successfully engage with the countries across the eastern borders, it must have a strong basis in areas proximal to eastern borders which comprise the northeastern states.
With its geographical position and rich natural as well as agro-climatic resources, Singh said access to the growing ASEAN market is essential for optimum utilization of trade and business opportunities.
He recalled how with the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indo-Bangladesh agreement was successfully accomplished resulting in the exchange of enclaves, facilitating easier and cost-effective access to Bangladesh and other regions.
On the issue of connectivity, Singh said it includes both international as well as internal connectivity with dimensions of intra-regional connectivity and inter-regional connectivity.
About international connectivity, the DoNER minister mentioned the Agartala-Akhaura rail link between India and Bangladesh, intermodal transport linkages and inland waterways through Bangladesh, Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and the Trilateral Highway Project connecting the northeast with Myanmar and Thailand, according to a statement.
Singh said the government’s focus on Act East, which led to the development of the northeast region and completion of an array of projects like grandest of bridges, improving inland water transport, airports, rail and roads networks, has changed the narrative of news emanating from the northeastern region in the past few years.
India’s pre-emptive response to COVID-19 and outreach towards other nations has enhanced bonding and trust with its neighbours r reliance in times of crisis, he added.
“Witnessing our commitment and continuous efforts towards the development of the northeastern region, ASEAN countries are now looking at strengthening trade ties with the region,” Singh said.
He said the ‘Act East Policy’ announced in November 2014 is the upgrade of the ‘Look East Policy’ which was promulgated in 1992.
It aims at promoting economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop a strategic relationship with countries in the Indo-pacific region with a proactive and pragmatic approach and thereby improving the economic development of the northeastern region which is a gateway to southeast Asia, the statement said.
The policy has been continuously evolving since the early 1990s and involves intensive and continuous engagement with southeast Asian countries in the field of connectivity, trade, culture, defence and people-to-people contact at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
Nisha Taneja, Professor at ICRIER, highlighted the importance of enhancing trade infrastructure and connectivity in the northeastern region through a research study led by her, it said.
The study states that 96 of the northeastern region shares its borders with other countries.
“ICRIER has undertaken a first of its kind comprehensive on-ground study across the entire northeastern region to assess the availability and quality of infrastructure at all 38 land customs stations and Integrated Check Posts in the region, the statement said.
The webinar was joined among others by Pramod Bhasin, chairman, ICRIER, and Rajat Kathuria, Director & Chief Executive, ICRIER.