Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the Northeast states are the link between two fundamental pillars of India’s foreign policy – Neighbourhood First and Act East.

“There is no denying the fact that the Northeast of India is our gateway to East and South-East Asia. In foreign policy terms, we might say that the states of the Northeast are the link between two fundamental pillars of our foreign policy, Neighbourhood First and Act East,” said Shringla.

Shringla said this while speaking on ‘Self-Reliant India: Reimagining the North East India in terms of Employment and Skill’ during a webinar organized by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) University, Sikkim on Thursday.

He said Northeast is also a storehouse of Indian talent.

“From the traditional handicrafts to the cutting-edge fields in the services sector, the young men and women from the states of the North East have made their mark everywhere,” added Shringla.

He said there is a need to increase and diversify employment opportunities available in this region.

“While it is remarkable that our young people from the North East have a large presence and influence in the services sector, this requires re-thinking and re-imagining the development strategies for the North East,” he said.

Referring to the terrain and climatic conditions of the Northeast, Shringla said the climatic condition of the region makes it suitable for fruit and vegetable cultivation, plantation crops, including new ones in the region such as coffee, horticulture and floriculture and also medicinal plants.

“Floriculture and organic farming are the norms in the states of this region, and this again could open up wide markets. Sikkim itself is one of the leading states in the Northeast in production and supply of flowers.

“We must encourage our youth to be agri-entrepreneurs, take a lead role in the agri start-ups and encourage agricultural technology adoption,” said Shringla.

During his speech, Shringla also highlighted the connectivity in the region.

“While road and rail connectivity has improved significantly, we also need to focus on air connectivity in the region. The new set of airports opened and upgraded under the Udaan scheme in the capitals of the states of the North East, catering to domestic travel,” he said.

Admitting that Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati is the only international airport in the Northeast, Shringla said as travel and tourism resumes in the aftermath of the ongoing pandemic, “we will have to cater to international flights as well.”

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