‘Northeast India will become hub of trade with Southeast Asia’

September 16th, 2008 - 11:05 pm 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, speakers at the fourth Northeast Business Summit agreed here Tuesday.Speaking at the event, Minister for Development of Northeastern Region Mani Shankar Aiyar said: “Four of the eight northeastern states - Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim - are free from security related problems and vast areas of the remaining four states - Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland - are free from militancy.”

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

Diplomats from the Czech Republic, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Arab League were also 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 would have to rise to Rs.14 trillion from the current one trillion, while the private sector needs to take greater interest in the region. Now only 0.5 percent of the capital formation of private sector is coming to this region,” he said.

Aiyar expressed the hope 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, the minister 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) Northeast Industrial Investment and Promotion Policy provided liberal concessions and subsidies for the investors as 68 investment proposals worth over $1.5 billion have been received under this policy covering various economic sectors,” Ansari said in his inaugural speech.

“Private investment has a huge opportunity in sectors such as agriculture, education, health care and tourism,” he said.

To showcase the potential of the region and to attract domestic and foreign investors, earlier three summits were held in Mumbai and New Delhi. The Guwahati summit was jointly organised by the ministry of the development of the northeastern region and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

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

An exhibition was also put up at the Sarusajai indoor stadium to showcase the region’s untapped resources, advantages and scope for investment.

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