Look East Policy should concentrate on benefits: Mukherjee

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New Delhi, Oct 31 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today stressed the need for making the 15-year-old ''Look East Policy'' of the government focus on the various benefits delivered through it to the people of the North Eastern Region (NER).

Speaking at the inter-ministerial meeting on NER here, Mr Mukherjee said the policy has yielded many benefits, including closer and strategic contacts between India and South-East Asian countries.

''We have achieved an impressive increase in the quantum of bilateral trade and increased people to people interaction,'' he said adding that what we are looking at here is a new paradigm of development whereby our foreign policy initiatives blend seamlessly into our national economic development.

The minister said there was a need for diplomatic initiative to convert the benefits into commercial opportunities. For this purpose the ministry will work in close cooperation with the ministry for Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER), the Planning Commission and all economic ministries and state governments.

He said physical connectivity and infrastructure emerged as the crucial issues at today's meeting which need immediate attention.

''In this regard our desire to cooperate with neighbouring countries to enable more efficient transit stands firm and we would ensure that our objectives are achieved as quickly as possible,'' the minister said.

The meeting was convened by Minister for DoNER Mani Shankar Aiyar and attended by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu and many their cabinet ministers along with all state Chief Ministers except that of Sikkim.

The Chief Ministers of the NER states focused on the present state of connectivity and of infrastructure available in the NER, capacity building, future potential for export and tourism and the possibility of institutional cooperation in training and research.

UNI

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