GUWAHATI, Feb 5 - Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi today advocated for connectivity such as airway, roadway, railway, waterway and i-way, which hold the key in furthering India’s relations with the South East Asian region.
While delivering the valedictory speech during the 2nd ASEAN-India Youth Summit at Vivanta by Taj here, Prof Mukhi said the North East region has emerged as a critical bridgehead of India’s foreign policy with ASEAN and BBN countries. In order to make the country’s Act East Policy a success, India’s connectivity with ASEAN countries through the North East needs to be given a boost.
The Governor said there is an urgent need to launch direct flights between the capitals of ASEAN and BBN countries from Guwahati. Under the UDAN scheme, substantial progress has been made to start direct flight services between Guwahati and Dhaka and Bangkok, he said. Moreover, efforts are on to start direct flights between Guwahati and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and Yangoon.
For the road sector, he laid emphasis on the development of Mainland India-Bangladesh-North East India corridors. The development of such corridors, like Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata, Silchar-Dhaka-Kolkata and Shillong-Dhaka-Kolkata, hold tremendous importance, he said.
He further said that the development of road access to the Chittagong port is also important for the growth of the region and for ensuring smooth access to the port, the 612-km road from Guwahati to Chittagong via Shillong and Dawki should be developed as a four-lane road.
Underlining the importance of connectivity through waterways, the Governor said that river Barak has already been dredged to make it navigable for starting trade activities between India and Bangladesh. International trade between the two countries through Chittagong will usher in a new paradigm of development between the two countries, Prof Mukhi said.
The Governor also drew the attention of all the delegates on the importance of rail connectivity. He said steps should be taken to improve railway connectivity with Bangladesh. The railway line to Chittagong within Bangladesh traverses very close to the Agartala-Sabroom railway line within the Indian territory in Tripura. If this link is made operational, it will create new vistas in bilateral and multilateral relations. The 15-km long Agartala- Akhaura railway line linking Indian Railways with Bangladesh Railways has already been developed, which can be commissioned for the benefits of the region as a whole, Prof Mukhi pointed out.
The Governor also harped on improving digital connectivity for economic progress of the region. Considering the geographical proximity of the North East with Bangladesh, the internet gateway stationed at Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh, can be used to provide internet connectivity to all the capital cities of the North East, he said.
Hailing the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Governor said the Act East Policy entails increased people-to-people contact, and hence, trade and other relations with countries on India’s east, particularly ASEAN countries, should be adequately used for the growth of the region.
Finance Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was present on the occasion, said that NE states are connected with the South East Asian region and therefore they share several similarities. With more than 2,075 ethnic groups, the North East is the demographic museum of the country and shares common agenda of the ASEAN. He also said that the Act East Affairs Department has also been formed in the State to develop people-to-people relations with the ASEAN.
Several other dignitaries were present on the occasion.