Conclave on ‘India’s Act East Connect: Prospects and Challenges’ held
Dispur, December : A conclave on ‘India’s Act East Connect: Prospects and Challenges’ was held at Guwahati today under the aegis of Act East Policy Affairs Department in collaboration with Asian Confluence, Shillong. Addressing the gathering, Act East Policy Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that before independence the North Eastern used to have multi-modal transportation networks through roadways, railways and riverine waterways through the territories which are now Bangladesh and Myanmar to several ports like Chittagong, Sittwe and0 Yangoon (then Rangoon). Tea and petroleum used to reach the Chittagong and Kolkata (then Calcutta) ports through the Brahmaputra-Padma-Meghna riverine waterway, as well as through railway lines passing through present-day Bangladesh. The then undivided Assam had a per-capita income higher than the national average upto 1950. With the onset of freedom and the simultaneous partition, the trade routes and transportation linkages were suddenly snapped rendering it land- locked. ‘Lately, things have improved in a significant manner’, said Patowary and mentioned about the initiatives of Government of Assam to remove the old notion of North East India as the ‘periphery of the country’ to that of the ‘centre of South East Asia’. He specially referred to the completion of projects like Asian trilateral highway, Sittwe and Kaladan Port, etc. which will transform these boundaries into trade, business, and people-to-people corridors. ‘Projects like developing roads, inland waterways, rails, air, power and digital linkages on the one hand and border hats on the other are underway as part of India’s Act East Neighborhood First policies. Several integrated check posts and initiatives on easier trade facilitation are in progress. Being the centre of ASEAN, North East is the most potential destination for investment and Assam is be the best destination due to its locational advantage’, added the Minister. Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua delved into the historical and socio-cultural relationship of North East Region with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Chief Secretary Barua said that India needs to spread its footprints in Myanmar in infrastructure development and pursue the expeditious completion of Kaladan project. He added that India also needs to foster strong relationship with Bangladesh and plan out its strategies vis-à-vis the ever-evolving Chinese influence. Principal Secretary of the Department, Dr KK Dwivedi elaborated the history of the vibrant trade and connectivity that previously existed and the need to leverage the geographical locations, increase connectivity, logistics and infrastructure. ‘This requires adoption of a multi- ministerial approach and one can foresee the result it may yield for growth and prosperity of the region,’ added Dwivedi. During the conclave, there were panel presentations by Samudra Gupta Kashyap, State Information Commissioner; Dr. Dayanand Borgohain, President, Tai Ahom Sahitya Sabha; Prof. Pahi Saikia, Associate Professor, IIT Guwahati; Binayak Dutta, Professor of History, NEHU and Kaushik Deka, Deputy Editor, India Today.