Prosperity is natural destiny of northeast: President

Acknowledging the need for collective and overall development of the north-eastern states to realise its full developmental potential, President of India Ram Nath Kovind has assured concerted initiatives by the Union government to accelerate the region’s progress.

Inaugurating the first North East Development Summit at City Convention Centre, Palace Compound here on Tuesday, President Kovind assured to improve air and waterways connectivity in the NE region so that the feeling of alienation is addressed to the maximum.

Describing the states in the northeast region as the true drivers of India’s Act East policy’, President Kovind, who attended the event as chief guest, said: “Prosperity is the Northeast’s natural destiny, its default position if I may put it so. Its geographical location makes it the obvious gateway to India, linking the vast economies of the Indian subcontinent and of today’s ASEAN countries. This is the potential we have to tap. And this is the idea that must inspire this (NE) Summit”.

Expressing elation over getting the opportunity to visit Manipur and being a part of the important event, President Kovind also highlighted that central to the Government of India’s approach to the development of the Northeast is an urgent and speedy enhancement of connectivity. “This is a multi-modal programme, across land, water and air. And it refers both to connectivity within India as well as to connectivity between India and its eastern and Southeast Asian neighbours”, he added.

“The Northeast is an amazing social and cultural ecosystem. Few regions of the world have such a wealth of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity packed into such a small area. This variety is an inspiration for all of us. The Northeast is home to some of the oldest indigenous communities in the world. It is one of our spiritual homelands. Whether it is the traditions of the Devi in Kamakhya or of Buddhism in Tawang and elsewhere, they make for a sacred bond that unites India with Southeast Asia. Christian missionaries have contributed to education here. And there is even a small but thriving Jewish community in Manipur and Mizoram,” he noted.

In an apparent move to woo the 175 plus delegates from India and abroad who are taking part in the summit to invest in the region’s development, the President pointed out that as much as Rs 90,000 crore has been earmarked for investment to link all north eastern states through railways.

Stressing the need for expediting transport infrastructure development works to make the region conveniently accessible to tourists and investors alike, he said: “For a short period in history, the eight north-eastern states were the frontier of India. But they were always in India's heart”.

“For a short period in our history, there has been a misconception about the eight states of the Northeast being a frontier of India. I say ‘short period of history’ deliberately. After all, if you consider the hundreds and thousands of years of civilisation, far from being a frontier, the Northeast has been at the heart of Indian imagination. And if you take South Asia and Southeast Asia as a continuum – as it has been perceived for most of history – then the Northeast is right in the middle of it,” the President explained.

“In the broader neighbourhood, initiatives such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project are critical for many of our countries and for the Northeast. The Northeast is also the corridor for so many trade and connectivity projects on the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal (BBIN) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation [BIMSTEC] platforms,” the President said.

He also expressed confidence that incorporation of the Northeast Tourism Development Councils in March 2017, aimed at creating partnerships between government and private sector players, will make the Northeast one of the leading tourism destinations of not just of India but also of Asia.

In his address, chief minister N Biren Singh said that NEDS 2017 is an effort to highlight and explore the potential of North East India in further establishing as a ‘land hub’ of India’s Act East Policy and showcase the unexplored business opportunities in Manipur and the region.

The synergies created by the ‘India-Myanmar-Thailand’ trilateral highway and ‘Kaladan Multi-Modal transport’ projects would transform the region, he added.

Calling upon all investors to invest in Manipur along with assuring that the state government will make sure that their capital remains safe and productive, Biren said there are great investment opportunities for value addition in the areas of tourism, organic farming, medicinal and aromatic plants, sports, handlooms and handicrafts, etc.

To boost the investment potential in textiles, a new Textile Policy would be formulated soon, he added.

Stating that Manipur is endowed with rich minerals and natural resources, the CM assured to formulate ‘Policy for Minerals’ to promote and encourage the much needed investment in the sector.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Dr Najma Heptulla exuded confidence that apart from providing an opportunity for the NE region to showcase its economic potential, the Summit would provide an opportunity to engage with other government agencies, embassies of various countries and investors to enhance the growth of the region.

Reaffirming her commitment towards ensuring better healthcare services in far-flung areas of Manipur under the Flying Doctors or Flying Dispensary project, she voiced optimism that the grand vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for digitizing India will solve the problem of digital connectivity of the state also.

“In the coming days we are going to use digital connectivity for virtual class rooms covering every district headquarters of the state. This will ensure high quality education in the schools,” the Governor said.

On the other-hand, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha announced that there will be Imphal to Delhi direct flight services from January, 2018.

Mentioning that the Union government is giving highest priority to provide better connectivity in the region, he said that the construction of Pakyong Airport of Sikkim has been completed and would be inaugurated soon. He further announced that 19 new airports and seven helipads would be constructed in the North East region, including Moreh in Manipur, shortly.

According to Union Minister for Commerce and Industries Suresh Prabhu, the northeast region is the fastest growing part of the country. He said that the Government of India would announce new Industrial Policy for the North Eastern States soon with special emphasis on protecting environment, improving economy, generating employment and promote entrepreneurship.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonawal said that organising the North East Development Summit would definitely promote the North East region of the country. He mentioned that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi often referred North East States as “New Growth Engine of the Country” and such Summit would highlight and explore the various potential and aspects in terms of tourism, skill development, entrepreneurship, etc.

Praising the Chief Minister N Biren Singh, he stated that the recent initiatives of Government of Manipur for improving trade and commerce with Myanmar would bring economic prosperity in the region. He called upon the NE states to work together with full spirit like a family in realising the dream of Prime Minister Modi to develop North East India as ‘Organic Hub’ of the country.

Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang said that Act East Policy would transform the Northeast India by opening doors to new opportunities like employment of educated youths, entrepreneurship, etc., in these states. He further said that building economic linkages with neighbouring countries would strengthen ties with South East Asian Countries.

The inauguration function was also attended by First Lady of India Savita Kovind, Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism of Bangladesh Rashed Khan Menon, Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, NITI Aayog vice chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar, managing director of Patanjali Ayurved Acharya Balkrishna, United Nations Resident Co-ordinator Yuri Afanasiev, cabinet ministers of Manipur and other North East states, delegates from both the country and abroad.

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