New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has met with chief ministers of the northeastern states to take the National Democratic Alliance government's ambitious initiative 'Act East Policy' to the ground. The government not only wants to build highways to transport goods from the region to east and south Asian countries but also air linkages, internet connectivity, better educational institutions for skill development and growth of the region.
The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been focusing more on the development of the northeastern region. The Assam government even constituted an Act East Policy department. The External Affairs Minister said that state governments of the Northeastern region were active stakeholders in India's Act East Policy. Greater connectivity and economic integration of India's North East with its eastern neighbours was considered a key focus area for growth and development of the region.
One of the important stakeholder state Assam's chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal said, "This was a first formal meeting on Act East policy." He said that the External Affairs Minister had stressed on building infrastructure and pushing development work in the northeast, which is at the heart of Act East Policy and India's ongoing engagement with ASEAN and its extended neighbourhood.
Another chief minister of the northeastern state Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb has raised the issue of removal of port restriction imposed by Bangladesh to improve export of Tripura to Bangladesh. He has also demanded operationalisation of Chittagong Port which is just 76 kilometres away of Tripura. Delay in implementation of BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) Motor Vehicle Agreement was also taken up by him. The CM also requested the Swaraj to get permission of setting up more Border Haats. Shifting border fencing in Manughat was also discussed.
Sources said that promotion of investment in the region, activation of Land Customs by Bangladesh, construction of bridge over Feni River and construction four-lane highway, waterways connectivity between Bangladesh and northeastern region, more regional passport offices in the region, removal of special permission to enter India through Tripura and better internet connectivity were some of the issue that were also discussed.
Another chief minister talked about reviving the historic Stilwell's Road, which was constructed during the Second World War from Ledo in Assam to Kunming, China passing through Lekhapani, Jairampur, Nampong and Pangsau pass, India-Burma (Myanmar) border. Sources informed that Northeastern states have the target of exporting agriculture products worth $100 billion as the region mostly does organic farming.
The meeting deliberated on the North Eastern region's intra-regional and sub-regional surface and air linkages, focusing on seamless connectivity with its contiguous neighbourhood. Continued development of relevant infrastructure both within the state and at international borders was also discussed with a view to enhancing trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people ties.