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A jewel in our crown

Today, India's North-east has everything going right for it. Just as the world is looking at India, India in turn, is looking towards the North-east. The region must cash in on this moment, Hoihnu Hauzel writes.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2012 23:42 IST

Today, India's North-east has everything going right for it. Just as the world is looking at India, India in turn, is looking towards the North-east. The region must cash in on this moment.

Infotech giant IBM has plans to open a regional office in Guwahati by 2013 and the Taj Group of Hotels has already opened its budget hotels (Ginger) in Agartala and Guwahati. There are many other business groups looking for land in Shillong, Gangtok and Guwahati. Local players are also in the race, many running homestay accommodations with passion. Even a place like Manipur, which wears the ugly hat of being 'the most disturbed state in India', now boasts of its first deluxe hotel.

There is no reason why tourists wouldn't want to holiday here. If, for instance, tourists can queue up to see stalactites and stalagmite caves in the Philippines that are roughly 12.6 km long, I have no doubt that tourists would also love the caves in Meghalaya, which are more than 25 km in length and way more spectacular. If tourists enjoy the sunrise at Indonesia's Borobudur temple, they might also enjoy praying in Sikkim's 16th century Rumtek monastery.

Often described as the Gateway to Southeast Asia, the importance of the region becomes pronounced as the government's Look East policy gains momentum. But the region must insist that it should not be used merely as a corridor; the government must invest in developing its infrastructure.

Thailand is looking at the North-east as a new market for investment and at Upper Assam as a part of their Buddhist tourism circuit. Thailand has identified core sectors like tourism, infrastructure and aviation in the North-east for possible investment. Malaysia's budget airlines, Air Asia, may start a service between Thailand and Guwahati soon.

To build on its strength, the North-east must utilise every penny it gets from the Centre. The 2011-12 outlay for the region is R8,000 crore. In addition, there is R1,550 crore for infrastructure development allocated to the ministry of development for northeastern region.

It is also time for peace. For this, the people must stop bickering among themselves. For example, Mizoram's road to prosperity began in 1986 when Mizo leader Pu Laldenga, who led the Mizo National Front, signed the Mizo accord. Other states like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura have fewer internal problems as compared to Manipur, which was termed as a 'land of jewels' by Jawaharlal Nehru. In the coming election, the Manipuris must vote sensibly for a competent leader.

In Nagaland, the Nagas are enjoying 'temporary peace'. The Music Task Force, a brainchild of the present chief minister, encourages the Nagas to sing professionally for peace. But peace and reconciliation must never be at the cost of other. There must be no ultimatum that peace for Nagas can happen only when the demand for Greater Nagaland is granted. There are far too many dangerous consequences if all demands made are met.

And if there is any room for logical argument, would it not be better for the people of North-east to learn to live in harmony?

Hoihnu Hauzel is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.