Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal stressed the importance of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and called for support from ASEAN to realize the growth potential of the state through close economic ties with the Southeast Asian nations.
On July, 4 2017, Sonowal participated at the inaugural Ministerial session of Delhi Dialogue IX of India-ASEAN dialogue relations, which is being organized by the Government of India in New Delhi aiming at strengthening the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.
Stating the event as a historic moment, which has unfolded coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel, first by any Prime Minister of India on the occasion of 25 years of diplomatic relations, the Chief Minister said, “Guwahati is no longer just the Gateway to North East India. We see it as the Gateway to Southeast Asia. We have already started working to put the most modern infrastructures in Guwahati, be it air connectivity to ASEAN countries, au ultramodern International airport, world class trade centre, and space for consulate offices of Southeast Asian nations”, Sonowal said.
Lauding the Act East Policy that seeks to make North East India the launch pad of this policy in India’s active engagement with Southeast Asia and East Asia, Chief Minister Sonowal said that Assam Government recently opened an Act East Policy Affairs department to work in tandem with the Central Government, and other North Eastern states in fulfilling the vision of the policy and implementation of various important projects.
The Chief minister also appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for articulating this policy immediately after NDA government came to power and said that Delhi Dialogue would boost the state Government’s efforts to bring Assam to the forefront of the country’s growth trajectory and open floodgates of opportunities to emerge as the gateway to the South East Asian nations.
Sonowal also expressed gratitude to Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for giving Assam and the North Eastern states of India, an opportunity to put across its point of view, in such an important platform. He further said that North East India’s geographical proximity to Southeast Asia, historical ties, ethnic and cultural connections and affinity with the people and societies of Southeast Asia make it the natural launch pad for a strong engagement with Southeast Asia.
Aiming at prospective investors, Sonowal also spoke about the vibrant inland river transport system that can be used for transportation of goods to prominent ports of the region extending up to Southeast Asia. “This river transport was hugely used during the British Raj. We want to revive that. For that, we have decided to dredge the Brahmaputra to strengthen navigation,” Sonowal added. Saying that developing Assam as a top investment destination has been the goal of the government, the Chief Minister stated that along with the traditional industries of Oil and Tea, Assam is emerging in the sectors of Agriculture and Horticulture in a big way and will definitely be a potential sector for economic and commercial engagement with other countries.
Sonowal further highlighted the potential of bamboo sector which is emerging in a big way and said that Government of India is working to transform entire North East into a prominent centre for organic farming in the whole of Asia, keeping in mind the conducive climate and natural resources.
The Chief Minister also spoke about the tremendous potential of the human resources of the region, particularly in the field of IT, which will help in building a strong IT hub and said that North Easterners, have emerged as a huge skilled workforce in India’s thriving BPO sector. He also informed that Government of Assam is moving ahead with digital connectivity to the North eastern states from Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar.
By: Avik Kumar Chakraborty