India pitches Northeast development at heart of Act East policy

Sushma NE governors

Ahead of the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur in November, India has pitched the development of its northeastern states at the heart of its Act East policy.

In a meeting with governors of the Northeast states in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj briefed them about different aspects of India’s ‘Act East Policy’ (AEP) and explained how it impacted India’s Northeastern states.

“The Northeast is a natural partner in India’s ‘Act East Policy’, being our land bridge to Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Act East Policy is a means to strengthen the stability, economy and prospects of our North Eastern region,” said Mrs Swaraj.

A slew of cross-border connectivity projects, under implementation or discussion, which would link the Northeast to the wider region including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand and even Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam were discussed. The minister discussed issues of border trade and integrating Northeast with enhancing capacity building and facilitating greater people-to-people exchanges.

The meeting of the region’s governors came in the wake of a specific recommendation in the Conference of Governors chaired by President Pranab Mukherjee in February.

New Delhi is looking to fast-track implementation of India-Myanmar- Thailand trilateral. India, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to facilitate efficient road transport in the sub-region which will help in creating an institutional mechanism for integration of South Asia and Southeast Asia. At the Secretary-level talks in Bengaluru in June, a consensus was reached on the text of the pact.

Once implemented, the sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN market through seamless passenger and cargo movement. India-Myanmar-Thailand road link is of strategic importance and has been designed to bridge economies in the ASEAN and SAARC regions.

The road which connects Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay in Myanmar, will ensure that India’s eastern border is opened to a new bus route from Imphal to Mandalay, enabling travellers to board a bus from Manipur’s capital to reach Mandalay in just over 14 hours.

The 3200-km road link from Moreh (India) to Mae Sot (Thailand) is expected to be upgraded by 2018. The connectivity of India, Myanmar, Thailand along with the sub-regional connectivity of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal via the Northeast is likely to improve intra-regional trade by nearly 60 per cent.

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