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Jairam prescribes steps for development of NE

The custom stations expected to be readied within 16 months are likely to provide for facilities for customs and immigration clearances and banking, reports Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 23:40 IST

*Focus on infrastructure development instead promoting business on an "incentives-based" policy.

*Elaboration of the concept of "border trade" by furthering the idea of "trade at the borders".

These are Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh's prescriptions for the economic development of the eight Northeastern states.

As part of the UPA government's goals of advancing the concept of the "Look East Policy", Rs 200 crore has been sanctioned for infrastructure development at four Land Custom Stations (LCS) in the North East, while proposals for the development of the Akia port (connecting Mizoram with Myanmar) has also been almost finalised, Ramesh said while delivering the keynote address at a conference at New Delhi.

The custom stations - expected to be readied within 16 months - are likely to provide for facilities for customs and immigration clearances and banking.

"It is a Bangladesh by-pass route", Ramesh said - in obvious reference to Dhaka's stated intransigence to allow a trade route with India.

The trade points will come up at Moreh in Manipur, Dawki in Meghalaya, Sutarkandi in Assam - besides one in Agartala.

A "Re-look NE policy" is what is on the Commerce Minister's mind -as he feels that the required focus on infrastructure development is somewhat amiss in the "Look East" policy.

Enabling the region's emergence as a gateway to SE Asia can become possible, he said, by tackling two tasks simultaneously: Reopening the ancient trade routes - and by actualising the idea of "trade at the borders" by permitting more items for trade (except a small number that can be placed on the negative list).

Ramesh said his ministry had requested the Ministry of External Affairs to pursue proposals with South Asian countries and China for the opening up of more numbers of border trade points.

Entitled as the "Look East Policy: A reality check", the conference - organised by the North East Media Forum - was broken up into sessions focussing on a range of issues including trade and regulatory matters; infrastructure, tourism and human resources development; arts and culture - and security issues.

" These kinds of interactions help and some good ideas did get thrown up, but the first need is to deal with hard core terrorists and criminal and ISI elements who are lording over the show from Dhaka and other destinations", said strategic analyst LtCol Anil Bhat (retd).

He added that the ironical fact was that none of the Indian army's operations in the Northeast had thus far been allowed to be completed.

KPS Gill - who has served stints as DGP of Assam and Punjab - promoted an entirely converse view by stating that the army's presence in the northeast had worsened instead of having improved matters. "Gun is not the answer", the former super cop said.

Participants at the conference included former ULFA spokesman Sunil Nath and Lok Sabha members Kirip Chaliha and Arun Sarma besides former Tourism Secretary Madan Prasad Bezbaruah and Jatin Sarkar of RITES.