Shillong, September 30, 2014: Addressing a high-profile gathering comprising of Ambassadors and Head of Missions, ASEAN at the Inaugural Session of India-ASEAN Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities for the North Eastern Region on 29th September, 22014 at Shillong, Meghalaya, Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs focused on the existing issues and challenges in the sectoral development of North Eastern region of India and spoke in details on the policy initiatives which the Government is working on to develop the potential sectors. He said that with following the FTA with ASEAN countries, there has been a hike in trade for more than 16%. India being a part of RCEP, the largest Economic Partnerships across the world having more than 10 countries, has a great potential in enjoying trade benefits with its neighbouring countries. However, India’s trade with ASEAN countries is only 30% to total ASEAN trade. Focusing on the cost of transportation and logistics, he said that special incentives have been given to development of connectivity and infrastructure projects. Development of feeder highways is necessary to be built in NER, said Wadhwa. The Shipping Corporation of India will be starting connectivity between Eastern region of India and Yangon from next year which is considered to be one of the impactful activities to be implemented. The Government of India is focusing on increasing the number of Visa on Arrival from ASEAN countries, increasing duration of stay and enhancing the multiple entry schemes to travelers. He said that financial and communication linkages with ASEAN countries need to be developed. Focusing on border trade, Mr. Wadhwa said that Manipur should develop as a multi-economic zone and Moreh should emerge as potential economic growth area. He concluded his remarks mentioning that with the host of initiatives being implemented by the Government, the region is expected to flourish in days to come.
Delivering the Special Address, H. E. Rizali Wilmar Indrakesuma, Indonesian Ambassador in India felt that following the Free Trade Agreement in goods & services would help in increasing trade ties & business potential between India and ASEAN countries. Infrastructure development will lead to increase in transport of passengers and goods through Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean with much lesser cost thereby increasing the competiveness and efficacy of the sectors. He suggested that building industrial zones and integrated infrastructure would help potential and prospective sectors grow in the region.
Mr. Ameising Luikham, Secretary, NEC distinctly mentioned the existing problems and portrayed on some of the possible solutions. He said that with Vision 2020 focusing on some of the major development agendas of NER of India, there is a need to focus on development of transportation, logistics and communication technologies. Moreh-Madalay, Kaladan-Sitwe and some other communication ways have huge power to reduce operational cost once installed. However, he said that problems with sanctioning funds by MDoNER lead to delay in development of projects. He suggested that there is a need to consider existing corridors as economic corridors which would lead to development of economic attributes of stakeholders, which eventually needs more accountability and capacity building of factors. Mr. Luikham said that NEC being one of the most powerful bodies in NER involving high-profile and sectoral heads need to be more engaged in activities for project development. A think-tank for NEC need to be developed for effectively implementing Vision 2020, commented Mr. Luikham.
Ambassador V. S. Seshadri, Vice-Chairman, RIS, focused on implementation of projects rather than working on studies and papers. He believes that if proper connectivity can be implemented, a much larger market at Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam can be tapped. For development of connectivity and infrastructure, there is an urgent need to develop implementable strategies and participation of all relevant stakeholders. Mr. Roopen Roy, President, ICC, spoke on potential of region across NER. Pharmaceutical, according to him, is one of the sectors which has huge prospect for development in ASEAN countries. Mekong-Ganga Project will help in reducing gap between ASEAN countries and India and there is a need for sub-regional development in the region, said Mr. Roy during his address. Dr. Prabir De, Professor, RIS conducted the session.
During the session, two Knowledge Reports, one by RIS on “Building Cross Border Production Networks between India’s North East Region, Bangladesh and Myanmar” and one by ICC on “Investment Opportunities in North Eastern Region: Scopes for Cross Border Production Links” were released by the panelists.