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Act East policy talks: Sushma Swaraj calls meeting of all northeast CMs

The government is looking at stepping up ties with countries in the region that could bring economic benefit to the north-eastern states and fulfil country’s strategic objectives.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2018 22:53 IST
Jayanth Jacob and Kumar Uttam 
Jayanth Jacob and Kumar Uttam 
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj,Northeastern states,External affairs minister
Minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, will hold the meeting with the aim to update some of the chief ministers who have been elected recently.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has convened a meeting of chief ministers of seven north-eastern states on May 4 to discuss India’s Act East policy and Delhi’s relationship with countries in South East Asia, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

After hosting ten Asean (Association of South East Asian Countries) leaders in Delhi in January, the government is looking at stepping up ties with countries in the region that could bring economic benefit to the north-eastern states and fulfil country’s strategic objectives. The chief ministers will also be briefed about country’s ties with the grouping of Bay of Bengal (BIMSETC) countries.

The meeting is aimed at updating some of the chief ministers who have been elected recently, a government official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly said that the north-east is at the heart of government’s Act East policy, a rechristening of the Look East policy launched by PV Narasimha Rao government in early 1990s.

“We created the Act East Policy and the north east is at the heart of it. The Act East Policy requires increased people to people contact, trade ties and other relations with countries to India’s east, particularly Asean members,” Modi said in Guwahati in February.

The north-eastern states recognise that the policy could help them economically. “Many of the initiatives under the Act East policy such as the Kaladan multi mode transport project (connecting north East to Myanmar) and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway can immensely benefit the North East”, said Rajat Kumar Sethi, adviser to Manipur chief minister Nongthombam Biren Singh.States in the region could benefit from the Act East policy through more trade, investment, and infrastructure development, added Prem D Rai, a Lok Sabha MP from the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF).

Though India-Asean trade is around $70 billion, just 1% of it passes through the North East. “That can be changed. Thailand is a 10 hour drive from Manipur, and if we improve infrastructure the state can benefit immensely from the trade with Asean,” Rai added.

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 22:53 IST