India’s northeast can be regional bridge: Tharoor

April 9th, 2010 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Shashi Tharoor Shillong, April 9 (IANS) Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Friday said India’s improving relations with countries of South Asia and South East Asia will accelerate development in the landlocked northeastern states.
“I see an opportunity for India to advance its national priorities in this region and its foreign policy in the wider region in one seamless approach,” Tharoor said in his keynote address on India’s “North East and BIMSTEC - A Retrospect here in Meghalaya”.

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation involving in South Asia and South East Asian countries with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal as its members.

The two-day international seminar is being attended by ambassadors of Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar and other senior diplomats from the region.

Viewing India’s northeast as a bridge between two sub-regions of Asia - South Asia and South East Asia - Tharoor said, “Both regions are in the midst of tremendous positive change, spurred by economic growth and development.

“By gradually integrating this region through cross-border market access, the northeastern states can become a bridge between the Indian economy and can be the fastest growing and most dynamic region in the world,” he asserted.

As part of the Look East Policy, India has taken steps for physical connectivity between the countries in the region, such as the Trilateral Highway Project between India, Myanmar and Thailand, the Kaladan Multi Model Transit Transport facility and the probable rail link from Jiribam in Assam to Hanoi in Vietnam.

He, however, admitted that the central government has not been able to leverage the various opportunities that the northeast region offers.

“Among the opportunities we should seize are not only the geographical factor of being a bridgehead between South Asia and South East Asia, but also the natural and human resources of the seven sisters states of the northeast,” Tharoor said.

Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are collectively known as the seven sister states.

However with India’s paradigm shift from a state-centered approach to one of global and regional cooperation, Tharoor said the central government has become more aware of the geo-economic potential of the northeastern region as a gateway to East and South East Asia.

Pointing out that BIMSTEC is attempting to play in truly linking this region with other parts of India as well as other countries, Tharoor said it is an important organization to promote regional cooperation and economic integration in a wide range of areas by effectively linking the NE Region with the rest of the country and the South and Southeast Asia.

“It is also important to link the development strategies of the northeast region with the BIMSTEC initiative. Diplomatic initiatives are urgently needed to be converted to commercial, tourist and investment opportunities,” Tharoor said

But for this purpose, he said the external affairs ministry has to work closely with the ministry of development of northeastern region, the planning commission, all economic ministries and the state governments.

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