Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Thursday said that northeastern States could take a lead in promotion of the Act East Policy and further engage with neigbouring nations and the larger ASEAN region to promote trade, commerce and cultural relations at the 10th Edition of Delhi Dialogue in New Delhi.
Chief Minister Sangma spoke in presence of Minister of State for External Affairs, General (retired) VK Singh and Chief Ministers of the northeastern States, Central Government and State Government officials.
The dialogue offers an occasion to update the agenda already set in the Act East Policy for establishing robust linkages with ASEAN countries thereby transforming the North Eastern States in the coming years. He took the privilege to place important issues for taking concrete decisions on the politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagements between the NE States and the ASEAN partners.
Appreciating the progressive steps taken by the Centre in holding the dialogue annually since 2009 wherein political leaders, policy makers, senior officials, diplomats, think tanks and academicians have been actively deliberating upon the ASEAN-India relation, the Chief Minister said, “Putting a robust policy framework in position is essential to reap the outcomes and benefits of such relation as enunciated by our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji. This Delhi Dialogue gives an opportunity for the people of the NER to express their aspirations for boosting trade and cultural relations with ASEAN countries.”
Chief Minister Sangma acknowledged the words of Union External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj who had deliberated the importance of commerce, connectivity and cultural relations as key areas of cooperation with ASEAN countries in the 9th Edition of the Delhi Dialogue. “Connectivity in the form of roads, railways and airways linking the State to the ASEAN countries is vital for growth and development. These communication networks play dynamic roles as ‘veins and arteries’ for flow of goods, services and persons within and outside the country”, he said.
The Chief Minister felt that the plan for reopening of the old Stilwell Road from Ledo, Assam, India to Kunming, Yunan Province of China via Myanmar covering a length of 1736 Kms, will go a long way in boosting up the volumes of cross-border trade between the NE States and the ASEAN countries, stated CMO, Meghalaya.
He told the gathering that Meghalaya has accorded top priority in providing all-weather road connectivity and accessibility to market centres, border haats, tourist destinations, production centres and rural settlements to incentivise farmers and producers to augment production and export their products to international markets. “This priority sector requires full-scale development for promotion of trade, tourism, cultural exchange and technology transfer,” he added.
The Chief Minister also, “If air connectivity is improved beside movement of people for tourism, cultural exchanges students from other ASEAN nations would get opportunity to take advantage of the educational facilities available in the region.”
The CM felt that airports in Meghalaya – Shillong Airport at Umroi and Baljek Airport near Tura connecting Meghalaya with neighbouring countries could play a vital role for connecting the region with promotion of exports and imports.
He also hoped that ropeways and cable cars could play an important part in the day-to-day life of a common man in the inaccessible parts of the State, particularly along the southern slopes bordering Bangladesh. “These areas are very fertile and produce high quality agricultural and horticultural products like oranges. However, getting these products to the market takes an extraordinary effort due to the difficult terrain,” he said.
Talking about advantage in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and tourism and hospitality and developing skills in these sectors to promote local enterprises and create local employment opportunities, he said, “To take advantage of the potential for export of produce in these sectors, it is imperative that capacity has to be built in logistics, warehousing, cold storage technology, highways services, business management and banking & finance.”
He also spoke about Meghalaya’s huge scope for export of high value agro-horticultural products like Lakadong turmeric, ginger, fresh and processed fruits, vegetables, etc. “The State Government is taking active steps to ensure that the huge potential for organic farming is met by creation of certification agencies and promotion of organic farming.”