‘India engaging with Saarc nations for northeast’s development’

New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) As part of the Centre’s Look East policy, India is engaging with Bangladesh and other Saarc nations to bring about development in the northeastern region, BJP leader Ram Madhav said on Saturday.

“The emotional disconnect between the people of the northeast and the rest of the country is our own creation,” Madhav, BJP’s national general secretary and in-charge of the northeast, said.

He was speaking during a panel discussion on “Northeast’s strategic importance and Act East policy” organised as part of the ongoing Northeast Festival here.

“We, as a government, are committed to bridge this emotional disconnect,” he said, adding that India’s development would not be complete without the development of the northeast.

The Indian government is taking many steps for the development of the region and is talking to Bangladesh and other Saarc nations as well in this regard. As part of our Look East Policy, we are looking to improve the physical connectivity and infrastructure in the region,” he said.

According to the BJP leader, there are three main reasons for the northeast lagging behind in development compared to other parts of the country — emotional disconnect, physical disconnect and bad governance.

“I believe that clean and efficient governance is also required for the development of the region,” Madhav said.

“Our priority is on developing good relations with our neighbours, and the biggest beneficiary of that would be the northeastern region.”

Ravi Capoor, joint secretary in the union commerce ministry, said during the pre-Independence days, the northeast was one of the most prosperous regions.

“There used to be free flow of trade, commerce and people between the countries, which was the main reason for this,” he said.

Citing Nasscom figures, he said, about 20 percent of the people working in the outsourcing industry are from the northeastern states.

“If we can improve the internet and digital connectivity of the region, there is no reason why it cannot become a major IT hub of the country, and that alone can contribute significantly to the development of the region,” Capoor said.

A.M. Singh, joint secretary in the union ministry of development of the northeastern region (DoNER), said his ministry was trying to sort out all the issues related to trade and commerce in the region and it required a coordinated effort from all the stakeholders.

“At DoNER, we are trying to provide a lot of opportunities to facilitate investments in the region. The most important thing is that we need to believe in the northeast,” he said.

Nani Gopal Mahanta, professor of political science in Gauhati University, said that since the northeastern region was landlocked, development and commerce was a problem.

“I believe that the northeast can develop on its own. As a region, it historically had seamless connectivity with Southeast and South Asian countries and that should be looked at once again. What is required is integration of road, rail and water transport and people-to-people connect,” he said.

Organised by Trend MMS, a Guwahati-based socio-cultural trust, the three-day Northeast Festival will conclude on Sunday.

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