No. IPR (PR)-03/2008                                            Dated Naharlagun the 29th March, 2010


Governor inaugurates ‘Look East’ Summit 2010 at Kolkata
North-East has to be the focal point of the Look East Policy – Gen. Singh

Itanagar, March 28: “Today, this summit will provide a platform for assessing our progress on these fronts and evolving policy guidelines for the future. We have now ‘looked’ for almost twenty years – it is now time for more action, particularly for the North Eastern states. I am sure that the distinguished speakers here will share their thoughts, ignite some sparks and help us to introspect on the road-map for furthering our Look East Policy.” This was stated by Arunachal Pradesh Governor General (Retd.) JJ Singh, while addressing the inaugural session of the ‘Look East’ Summit 2010 as the Chief Guest at Kolkata yesterday (27th March ). “I shall be glad if the proceedings of the summit are documented and shared with the Central and State governments and industry leaders, thus enabling them to take appropriate steps,” he added, reports PRO to CM.

In his inaugural address, Gen Singh said, the North Eastern Region Vision 2020 document has correctly identified that South-East Asia begins where North-East of India ends, and therefore it has to play the arrow-head role in further evolution of this policy. This part of the country has 98% of its land boundaries with International neighbors, and is connected to the rest of the country with a 22 km wide corridor in the vicinity of Siliguri. This region is not only land-locked, but also locked in a vicious cycle of low growth rate. But its 1640 km long border with Myanmar, the gateway to South-East Asia provides us with exciting opportunities to foster new relations, whether trade-related or otherwise with our neighbors in this part of the World. As the Vision 2020 document mentions, the 39 million people of this region have an ambitious vision – by 2020, they aspire to see their region emerge peaceful, strong, confident and ready to engage with the global economy.

Stating that the people of North East share common origins with their neighbors of the South-East Asia and thus, this region has a distinct natural advantage in attempting integration of societies, he pointed, these relations can not only be the edifice on which India builds its Look East Policy but can also be an opportunity to our brethren of the North-East in looking for a golden future by exploiting the roots of their glorious past.

The ministry of DoNER has rightly identified this as a potential area for inclusion under the Look East Policy and has been advocating exchange programmes between students of North-East India and South East Asia. At the same time, the proposal for teaching South- East Asian Languages in North-Eastern Universities and providing seats to students from SE Asia in prestigious Indian Institutes of Academic Excellence like the IITs and IIMs is being examined. The culturally similar backgrounds can also be used to develop a panregional Budhist circuit in Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim by linking other Budhhist destinations like Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet Autonomous Region.

Commenting on importance of land communication, Gen Singh said, today, most of the goods from ASEAN countries flow into India through the much longer sea-route to Kolkata and other ports on the Eastern Coast. Once the land route through North-East opens, the sheer volume of trade, reduced transportation costs and much lower time overruns will ensure a fall in prices and the corresponding surge in demand in the rest of the country as well.

“We cannot make a policy successful by imposing it on people; it will be successful only when it is driven by demand. To generate this demand, North-East has to be the focal point of the Look East Policy. This brings me to the equally important issue of connectivity. If we draw a circle with a radius of a 1000 km around Gauhati, it comprises many countries of South-East Asia, namely Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and some provinces of China. Interestingly, Delhi would lie outside that circle. So for ensuring connectivity, whether it is a hub-and-spoke air connectivity model or rail or road networks, Guwahati becomes an automatic choice.”

For improving connectivity, he said that road connectivity should get the highest priority. The proposals for Asian Highway Link Road and connecting the rail networks of India and Myanmar at Dibrugarh railhead have to be taken up on highest priority including the proposal for the bus service from Gauhati to Yangon.

“While we have already developed a 160 kms highway linking Tamu in Manipur to Kaleywa in Myanmar, this road has now connected Tamu to Mandalay and is called the India-Myanmar friendship road.” The road has been financed entirely by the Ministry of External affairs and constructed by the Border roads organization he added.

Calling for focus on developing the historic Stilwell road which connected Ledo in Assam with Myitkina in Myanmar, and linked up with Yunnan province of China, he said, through this road, which lies partly in Arunachal Pradesh, we are just 650 km away from the Yunnan Border east of Bhamo in Kachin State. The Chinese borders being only about 15 hours of road journey away from our border will offer us tremendous opportunities of trade and cooperation. This 1600 km road will also offer a considerable distance advantage over the existing Mandalay highway. It will also bring in associated benefits like revival of formal border trade from the Pangsau Pass in Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh. As timber (mainly teak) will be the major item of import through this Border Post, it will not only help revive many of the wood-based industries in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh which had to be shut down following the Apex Court’s restrictions on timber operations in 1996.

Stating peace is a pre-requisite for development, the Governor also called for peace in the region. It would also be critical to address the challenges of border management especially with regard to cross-border migration, terrorism, drugs, arms supply and other forms of non-conventional security hazards whose threat level may increase with more open and increased movements across the Border, he stressed.

Bangladesh minister for Industries Dilip Barua, Secretary (ER), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Parbati Sen Vyas and President of Indian Chamber of Commerce Vishambhar Saran attended it along with host of dignitaries from several south east countries.

The summit, pursuing 2Cs-commerce and connectivity, organized by Indian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata aims to focus on areas of commerce, i.e. the prospects of trade and investment in South East Asia along with the regional integration and scope for enhancing foreign trades and connectivity, such as role of better connectivity in terms of infrastructure and logistics to promote trade between India and her ASEAN neighbours. Ambassadors of Laos, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar addressed the special plenary session while Governor of West Bengal MK Narayanan graced the valedictory session,
adds the RajBhawan release.

Sd/ D.Dodum,PRO


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