Manipur needs image makeover to be India’s Act East hub, says CM N Biren

In the recently concluded North East Development Summit , the state has signed 49 deals worth Rs 5,000-crore, the chief minister says.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2017 18:33 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Imphal
N Biren Singh,Manipur CM,Act East policy
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh says his government is working hard on the image makeover that the state needs. (Rahul Karmakar/HT Photo )

The hotbed of militancy not so long ago, Manipur is trying to shake off the ‘dangerous tag’ to be India’s hub of trade with Southeast Asia as envisaged in New Delhi’s Act East policy.

The BJP-led coalition government headed by chief minister Nongthombam Biren Singh is determined to change the image of Manipur from a state associated with bloodshed and human rights violations to one that is investor-friendly. The first North East Development Summit organised in state capital Imphal last week was a step in that direction by the eight-month-old government.

Here are excerpts from an interview with the chief minister.

Where does India’s Act East policy put Manipur?

President Ram Nath Kovind said Manipur is not on India’s periphery but has historically been at the heart of the country’s imagination. Manipur, specifically Moreh, is the gateway to Myanmar and Southeast Asia beyond for trade and cultural relations. Also, the state is almost at the centre of the (20,557 km) Asian Highway 1 from Tokyo to Instanbul. These make Manipur the hub of Act East policy.

But Manipur has a history of extremist, ethnic violence and rights violation…

Things are changing in Manipur. Our government is reaching out to everyone, trying to bridge the psychological and developmental gap between the (Imphal) Valley dwellers and tribes in the surrounding hills. A majority of the extremist groups are under ceasefire agreement. Today, Manipur is as peaceful or as allegedly dangerous as any other place on earth. Unlike in the past, Imphal has a night life where people go boating, holding music concerts and eating out around the Kangla Fort (the capital’s centerpiece).

How are investors viewing this change?

We are working very hard on the image makeover that Manipur needs. That Indian and foreign policy makers and firms attended the first North East Development Summit, facilitated by Ram Madhav (BJP’s national general secretary) and his India Foundation, last week shows our efforts are working. The success of this summit can be gauged by the fact that our government signed 49 deals worth Rs 5,000-crore. Development of Manipur is crucial for business with ASEAN.

The Manipur government is often accused of neglecting the hills, one of the main reasons behind extremism.

There are reasons for our hill dwellers to feel aggrieved. We are trying to undo the past and give them the development they deserve. Our government has made it clear that we, the Nagas, Kuki-Zomis, Meiteis and other communities, have to progress together. Accordingly, we are working on time-bound targets to bridge the hills-plains divide.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 18:33 IST