Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein on Thursday said the Northeast has embarked upon a new growth trajectory and has become India’s new growth engine under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mein said this while addressing the Special Plenary Session of 10th Delhi Dialogue in the national capital.
The session on Thursday was chaired by Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen (retired) Dr VK Singh.
While addressing the session, Mein said, “Special attention and priority has been given to the Northeast on all fronts through the pro-active Act East Policy which has vastly changed the mindset of people of other parts of the world about the region. As part of this policy, the Centre is focusing on reducing the isolation of the region by improving all round connectivity through road, rail, telecom, power and waterways sectors and making it the gateway to Southeast Asia.”
He said that the opening up of both road and rail routes to neighbouring countries through Northeast would give a boost to the economic development of the region.
Highlighting the steps taken by the Centre, Mein stated that the NE can be a hub for facilitating development cooperation across the border with countries in the immediate neighbourhood such Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, and even with those located a little beyond such as Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam.
Mein stressed on furthering efforts to fructify establishment of clear convergence with India’s Act East Policy which can be achieved only when a thorough ground level one-on-one mapping of interventions both within the NE and in the neighbourhood is carried out.
He said that the agreement on ‘land border crossing’, which was one of the seven MoUs signed during the visit of Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to Myanmar on May 10-11, was a landmark in bilateral relations between the two countries as it will enable people from both countries to cross the land border with passport and visa, including for accessing health and education services, pilgrimage and tourism.
Mein said that age-old cultural and historical bonds can be invariably revived by translating these policies into reality by the Government as there are racial, linguistic and cultural similarities among the people of Northeast and those of Southeast Asia.
Mein also suggested a bilateral dialogue with Myanmar for improving border security and impede drug trafficking especially opium from across the borders. He reiterated to consider opening up of the Stilwell Road up to Myanmar as it would be mutually beneficial to both the countries and facilitate trans-border trade and tourism.
He further said turning the India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway into a robust transportation network and strengthening the roads leading up to Tamu-Moreh would help to realise the true potential of the North East. He said there is also an urgent need to take up the Lumla (in Tawang) to Trashigang (in Bhutan) road for strengthening border trade between the two countries.
Mein pressed for creation of integrated check posts at the border with proper security and custom facilities. He also suggested opening of border haats to boost trans-border trade.
He also urged the Centre for early action to re-open of Land Customs Station, Nampong (Pangsau Pass) and examine opening up of more LCS across Indo-Mynmar border.
Mein said that the tourism sector could also be the fulcrum of Act East Policy and Northeast Tourism should take advantage of the brisk tourism business happening in Southeast Asia. He suggested the North East Tourism Development Council (NETDC) should enter in an MoU with their ASEAN counterparts to make tour packages connecting NE and ASEAN.
He said, “Arunachal Pradesh is the seat of ancient Buddhist traditions at Tawang and there is scope of promotion of a new Buddhist Tourism Network to attract tourists from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to Buddhist pilgrimage centres in Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, even beyond to Gaya and Lumbini.”
Later, Mein accompanied by Chief Secretary Satya Gopal attended the Ministerial Session chaired by Swaraj where ministers, ambassadors, heads of delegations of ASEAN countries and chief ministers from the Northeast were also present.