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3 Oct, 2012

Linking Northeast India to Southeast Asia Will Boost All Economies


Ministry for Development of North-East Region 01-October, 2012 – The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mr Paban Singh Ghatowar has said that over the two decades, economic and strategic connections with Southeast Asia has increased manifold.

Addressing the 158TH Annual General Meeting of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry Kolkata on 28th September, 2012, Mr Ghatowar said total trade between India-ASEAN has grown up from $21.29 billion in 2005-06 to $57.89 billion in 2010-11, clocking compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.14 %. There is the strong possibility of existing economic linkages expanding even more. And this is where the integration of the North Eastern Region (NER) with Southeast Asia is significant, the Minister added.

In another meeting of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the subject – “Look East – North East and Beyond (Expectations from West Bengal)”, he referred to the North East Vision 2020 document released by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2008, which recommends a structural transformation of the region in terms of development to catch up with the rest of the country with an increasing average growth rate of 12.95 % in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) per annum from the present 7.5 %.

The Vision 2020 was the result of a collaborative effort of all the States under the aegis of North Eastern Council which aims at achieving various development goals, including : Poverty eradication; Maximising self-governance; Harnessing resources for people’s benefit; Building capacity in people and institutions; Strengthening infrastructure; Creating a centre for trade and commerce , etc.

At Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) meeting, Mr Ghatowar expressed his views on emerging business opportunities in Bangladesh with focus on East and North East India. He observed that the NER can become the main hub of India’s economic bonding with both Bangladesh and Southeast Asia because of the contiguous land borders between the two regions. Land connectivity through establishment of transport links between India’s Northeast and Bangladesh would go a long way in facilitating movements of goods and people on both sides.

He opined that while physical connectivity by expanding infrastructure capacities is one key issue, the NER also expects such connectivity to provide several new opportunities for the region. Being a landlocked region, the NER is deprived of some natural advantages of economic geography, which are enjoyed by coastal areas. But it is hopeful of collaborating with Bangladesh on various projects for securing mutual benefits.

He cited examples of proposed establishment of Border Haats, development of seven Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) on India – Bangladesh Border and generous market access by India for Bangladesh imports, at zero basic customs duty for all items except liquor and tobacco.