Need to set up a consultative mechanism to integrate India’s NE with the Look East Policy: North Eastern Council

North East to Benefit from BCIM Groups on Transportation, Trade and Tourism

There is an urgent need to set up a consultative mechanism to integrate India’s Look East Policy with the requirements of the North East. This was stated by Mr. M P Bezbaruah, Member, North Eastern Council at a Stakeholders’ Consultative Workshop on The Role of the Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor in Regional Integration: Perspectives from Northeast India being organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry in cooperation with the North Eastern Council, the Institute of Chinese Studies and the Observer Research Foundation in Guwahati today.

According to Mr. Bezbaruah, there is a need to study the export potential of the North East and match that with the demand conditions in markets such as Bangladesh, China and Myanmar. He also highlighted the need to create enabling conditions in the North East for such exports to take place. While some movement has already taken place in terms of road and highways, IT etc. much more needed to be done.

Mr. Bezbaruah also called for the need to create sustainable projects in the region in collaboration with the other countries in the BCIM grouping. Local capacities needed to be built up. Projects needed to be prioritized and implemented.

Ambassador Rajeet Mitter, Former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh & Leader, BCIM Economic Corridor Joint Study Group highlighted the potential of the proposed BCIM Economic Corridor [BCIM-EC] linking Kolkata in India to Kunming in China through Bangladesh and Myanmar.

He stated that the initiative that promises huge developmental gains for the whole sub-region. It brings together four countries with 40% of the world population, 13% of world GDP and 10% of the world’s surface area. Ambassador Mitter pointed out that it links two Least Developed Countries – Bangladesh and Myanmar, with two of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, China and India.

According to Ambassador Mitter, the BCIM – EC’s sub-regional footprint traverses areas of relative underdevelopment, particularly the landlocked south western part of China and India’s north eastern states, a distinct sub-region whose backwardness can be addressed not merely through national developmental programmes but through trans-national connectivity, economic integration and cross-border cooperation.

He pointed out that the BCIM would be India’s first attempt at creating a transnational economic corridor and that the eastern and North Eastern Part of India will be at the heart of this process.

According to Ambassador Mitter, the overriding objective of the BCIM-EC is the comprehensive and integrated socio-economic development of the sub-region where tangible benefits accrue to the people in an equitable manner. He stated that the priority focus for the BCIM-EC would be issues like non-tariff barriers, the harmonization of standards and the whole range of trade facilitation measures. These would need to be further buttressed with trans-national arrangements for transit and the eventual movement of vehicles and other forms of transportation across national borders.

Ambassador Mitter highlighted that the generation of new and additional trade flows and new employment opportunities will arise through the promotion of production hubs and supply chain networks along the economic corridor. He also drew attention to the crucial role of people-to-people contacts in fostering greater understanding, cooperation and goodwill.

Addressing the participants, P K Rawat, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs stated that the thought process for the BCIM Economic Corridor actually originated in the North East with thinkers such as B G Verghese writing about the idea while based in the the region. He felt that such consultative meetings brought together industry, leading thinkers in the region as well as the state and central governments on a single platform to discuss the issues surrounding this initiative.

While providing the industry perspective, Mr. Barun Barpujari, Chairman, CII Assam State Council & Executive Director, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (AOD) stated that integration within the region was a prerequisite before the region could integrate with other countries. He felt that sectors such as oil and gas, non-renewable energy, natural resources, agriculture etc. hold tremendous potential for cooperation between the North East and the BCIM region. He was of the view that to promote trade in these goods and services, there was a need to ensure seamless movement of goods, services and people across borders.

Speaking in the same vein as Mr. Bezbaruah, Mr. Ameising Luikham Secretary, North Eastern Council stated that the North East region has not been engaged with the implementation of the Look East Policy. He stated that this needed to be corrected and a consultative mechanism set up for the same.

Prof. Patricia Uberoi, Vice Chairperson, Institute of Chinese Studies / Member BCIM-EC Joint Study Group delivered the Vote of Thanks at the Session.

The conference brings together over 100 participants to discuss issues such as Trade, Finance and Investment, Social and Human Development, Energy Cooperation, Sustainable Development, Regional Connectivity and People to People Contacts.

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