President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday said that the northeastern region is the natural gateway for India to southeast Asia and beyond.
Addressing the valedictory function of the week-long North East Festival here, he said that with over 5,300 km of international borders, the region has significant strategic value.
“With the launch of the Look East Policy, the security-centric approach towards neighbours in the east gave way to a prioritising of economic issues for benefiting from the common potential for economic growth across the region. In 2014, the LEP was upgraded to the Act East Policy which brought about a paradigm shift and marked a significant change in the potential role of the region,” he said.
The North East Festival was organised by the Union Ministry of Development of North Easten Region as a part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
Kovind said that he was impressed by their spirit of “Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahi”! The northeast region was second to none when it came to joining the struggle for freedom, he added.
The President said that when our nation won Independence, the northeastern region was vastly different from what it is today.
“Initially, this region had suffered hugely because of partition of India, as it found itself suddenly cut off from major centres of communications, education and trade and commerce such as Dhaka and Kolkata.”
He noted that the only corridor connecting the northeast and the rest of the country was a narrow strip of land in the north West Bengal, making it challenging to support developmental initiatives in the region.
Stressing that the region has immense inherent strengths, the President said that what it offers in terms of tourism, horticulture, handloom and sports is often unique. He said that efforts are needed now to place the northeastern states on par with the industrially advanced states so that more jobs are created here.
Recognising this need, the government is working with the states to improve their Ease of Doing Business parameters and to facilitate the flow of private investments into the northeast, Kovind said.
The President said that this region is part of the Himalaya and Indo-Burma bio-diversity hotspots – the two of 25 such hotspots in the world.
Assam Governor Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal among others were present in the function, held at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here.