Northeast India will become heart of trade with Southeast Asia (Lead)

September 17th, 2008 - 12:45 am ICT by IANS  

Mani Shankar AiyarGuwahati, Sep 16 (IANS) India’s northeastern region should become the hub of the country’s growing trade and business with Southeast Asia, said speakers at a business summit attended by delegates from neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.Minister for Development of Northeastern Region Mani Shankar Aiyar, speaking at the Northeast Business Summit here Tuesday, said: “Four of the eight northeastern states - Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim - are free from security related problems, while vast areas of the remaining four states - Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland - are free from militancy.”

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari inaugurated the two-day summit Monday. Several union ministers, chief ministers and ministers of the northeastern states, investors and industrialists from India as well as neighbouring countries have taken part in the summit.

The summit generated high degree of investment interest in the corporate world. In all 247 Expressions of Interests (EoI) from 64 companies were received, almost double the number of EOIs generated in the last session in New Delhi.

Of the 247 EOIs, the highest number of 64 is from Assam, followed by 45 from Arunachal Pradesh, 34 from Meghalaya, 19 from Tripura, 17 from Manipur, 26 from Mizoram, 27 from Sikkim and 15 from Nagaland.

The agro and food processing sector received 65 EOIs, tourism over 50, infrastructure over 70, information technology over 30 and manufacturing got 12.

An MOU was signed between the Indian Chamber of Commerce and its Bangladeshi counterpart to focus on promotion of trade in the northeast region.

“There should be air and bus service between Guwahati and Dhaka,” said Farooq Sobhan, former Bangladesh high commissioner to India.

Sobhan, also former foreign sectary of Bangladesh, told the concluding session of the summit that the customs procedures between the two countries should be simplified to promote trade and business.

Diplomats from the Czech Republic, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Arab League were present on the first day.

“Till recently there was no integrated road map for development of the region but with the release of the Vision 2020 document in July by the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) this lacuna has been corrected,” Aiyar, who is also the chairman of the North Eastern Council (NEC), told the gathering.

“To attain the objectives of the Vision 2020, the government investment in the northeast will have to rise to Rs.14 trillion from the current trillion, while the private sector needs to take greater interest in the region. Now only 0.5 percent of the capital formation of the private sector is coming to this region,” he said.

Aiyar hoped that the summit would encourage foreign companies to make investments in the region. Participation from neighbours like Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh means exploration of serious business opportunities has begun, he said.

Calling for an end to the isolation of the northeast, Ansari said: “The government is committed to converting diplomatic initiatives into commercial opportunities for the overall development of the region.”

The Guwahati summit was jointly organised by the ministry of the development of the northeastern region and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

Several other memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were signed Tuesday to set up joint venture projects and exchange technical expertise.

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