ITANAGAR, Aug 8: “Cultural similarity between the people of ASEAN countries and North East should become the fulcrum of our friendship and the bedrock of all our policies both – diplomatic and economic,” Arunachal Pradesh deputy chief minister Chowna Mein said here on Monday. Mein was addressing the celebration of 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership at Luangprabang Hall, Muong Thanh Luxury Hotel, Vientiane in Lao People’s Republic on Monday.
Mein said that India is on the path to forge a strong friendship and partnership with the ASEAN countries under the dynamic and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the welfare, well being and overall development of north-eastern states of India being in the top priority of the Union Government, Act East Policy of Govt of India will be a game changer for the north-eastern states of India vis-a-vis the ASEAN countries.
Further stressing on the cultural diversity of India and the cultural similarities of North Eastern India with most ASEAN countries in terms of culture, traditions, religious practice and food habits, etc. he stressed that this should be reinforced by regular bilateral cultural exchange and called to develop an institutional mechanism in this direction to enhance people to people contact and create a platform for developing better understanding and opportunities of economic activities in due course of time.
He urged the ASEAN leaders to take full benefit of the agreement on trade in goods under the framework agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation between the republic of India and the ASEAN countries. He also proposed to the ASEAN-India Business Council to consider organizing a Business to Business meeting in northeast India region any time in the near future citing that such a move will foster greater cooperation and understanding between north eastern states and the ASEAN and this will go a long way in strengthening our friendship.
Mein also highlighted about the diverse tribal culture, immense potential in tourism, horticulture and hydropower sectors of Arunachal Pradesh. He invited the ASEAN nations to look at investment in infrastructure development connecting the North East region in India like roads, power evacuation, etc. as Arunachal Pradesh is also known as the power house of India.
He called for early re-opening of the historic Stilwell Road or Ledo Road that starts from Assam and passes through Arunachal Pradesh in Pangsau Pass and leads up to Kunming in China through Myanmar. This road would facilitate transportation of produces of Aruanchal Pradesh into the neighbouring areas of Myanmar and vice-versa and there would be considerable complimentary trade opportunities on both sides.
He pitched for a high level agreement on building infrastructures on both sides including roads as well as creation of an Integrated Check Post at the border with proper security, custom and immigration facilities.
He also informed that the request has already been made by the Govt of Arunachal Pradesh to the Union Govt of India to facilitate issue of Land Route VISA for the Buddhist pilgrimage in border points at Moreh in Manipur and Pangsau Pass in Arunachal Pradesh.
Mein further called to make best use of Act East policy by engaging the ASEAN nations to realize our full potential in many sectors for economic and trade linkages and further urge the ASEAN nations to make the best use of Act East Policy and Make in India initiatives of Govt of India and consider investing in the northeast region of India as the region will serve as a gateway to India for the ASEAN nations.
He said that India being a big neighbouring country can act as a partner and a catalyst for further economic growth and development of the ASEAN nations and expressed hope that India and ASEAN countries can do a lot more together as lots of things are in store for both.
Honchun Ngandam, Minister of Education in his speech said the Celebration of 25 glorious years of ASEAN and India relationship at Vientiane, Lao PDR should act as a medium or catalyst in the implementation of “Act East Policy” of Govt of India. He said, “Act East Policy, which was conceived as an economic inventiveness, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue, support, collaboration and cooperation.
“Over the years India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with ASEAN and forged close ties with all countries in the region. India’s Act East Policy focuses on extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region.” The policy has placed emphasis on India-ASEAN cooperation in the domestic agenda on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities, Make in India and other initiatives. Connectivity projects, cooperation in Space, Science & Technology and people to people exchanges or contact should become a facilitator for regional integration and prosperity, Ngandam said.
Apart from investment in agriculture, horticulture, overseas exchange programme in education, hydro-power and infrastructure, new avenues for economic growth through the development of vertically integrated food processing chains, herbal medical sector, market linked skill development and cross-border trade, student exchange programme etc. should be boost to further strengthen the traditional bonding relation with ASEAN and the North East States of India.