Briefing the governors of the Northeast states, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hosted a session on India’s ‘Act East Policy’ on October 6. The briefing covered all aspects of India’s ‘Act East Policy’ (AEP) with special focus on how it impacted India’s Northeastern states.
Ms Swaraj stated that, “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.”
Various 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. Special focus was on issues of border trade and integrating Northeast along with enhancing capacity building and facilitating greater cultural and 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.
One of the major projects is the connectivity of India, Myanmar and Thailand. India, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to facilitate efficient road transport in the sub-region and will help each country 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 (BBIN) via the Northeast is likely to improve intra-regional trade by nearly 60 per cent as well as leverage the strategic importance.
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