Sushma Swaraj meets North East chief ministers to propel Act East Policy towards action-oriented results
The meeting was a departure from usual agenda of the chief ministers as their interactions are often limited to the ministries in the social sector such as health, education and surface transport.
Steering away from the routine discussions on governence issues, chief ministers of the northeastern states flocked in the National Capital on Friday for the first meeting on Act East Policy convened by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The meeting deliberated extensively on the infrastructural needs of the northeastern region to facilitate the Act East Policy initiated by the Centre.
The meeting was a departure from usual agenda of the chief ministers as their interactions are often limited to the ministries in the social sector such as health, education and surface transport. This was for the first time when all chief ministers of the northeastern states assembled in the Ministry of External Affairs marking the beginning of a change of narrative in the region.
"The meeting also attempted to instil a global outlook among the state leaders and bureaucracy," said a senior official accompanying Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. "Development always has meant catering to the demands of our state only. But the Act East Policy has taught us to think global as under this policy we are to take up projects with not only national but also international importance and obligations."
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Sonowal said that the meeting was mainly about developing regional cooperation to enhance connectivity with the ASEAN nations.
"It has been a very meaningful discussion with the initiative of the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. We have put up our views regarding expediting the Act East Policy. The agenda of the talks was for developing India's ties with the ASEAN nations and enhancing connectivity with them," he said.
ASEAN is a 10-nation bloc with Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam as its member states with a motto of -- "One Vision, One Identity, One Community".
The chief minister also said that a detailed project report will be prepared to fortify the Act East Policy covering all the sectors of the economy including health, education, tourism, trade and commerce.
"We hope that the concerned ministry will take up the issues we have put up to fulfill the expectations of the people," Sonowal said.
The Act East Policy was declared after Narendra Modi took over as prime minister in 2014.
"India's Act East Policy focusses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. The policy which was originally conceived as an economic initiative, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation. India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region," Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd.) VK Singh had informed the Lok Sabha earlier.
The main objective of the policy is to boost economic cooperation between the ASEAN states through the northeastern states as the region is closest to the ASEAN nations than any other part of the country.
Sonowal pressed upon the need to start such flights to the ASEAN nations from Guwahati.
In his interaction with the media, the Assam chief minister said that the state has already started export of banana to Dubai.
"This week for the first time Assam exported nearly 1.2 metric tonnes of Malbhog variety of banana to Dubai by air. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has envisioned the northeastern region to develop as an organic hub. We are now moving in that direction," he said.
Particpating in the meeting, Tripura pressed upon the need to modify the custom rules to enable export of pineapple, rubber and bamboo directly from the state to Bangladesh.
"There are non-tariff trade restrictions on export of these commodities through its land customs stations (LCSs) in Tripura to Bangladesh. We have to export these products through Kolkata when we share border with Bangladesh," an official from the state said.
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