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Ravindra Chavan asked: What have been the implications of the Act/Look East policy on the North Eastern region of India?

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  • Pushpita Das replies: The Act East Policy rests on four central themes – Connectivity, Commerce, Culture and Capacity-Building. The policy envisages to break the Northeast’s isolation through various connectivity projects and integrate it with national, regional and global markets. Enhanced regional connectivity will facilitate greater Commerce, which will allow the region to explore wider markets for its products in the Southeast and East Asia. It will simultaneously provide greater product choices for the inhabitants of the region as the products from the Southeast and East Asia will be available to them. As people of the Northeast start trading, greater Commerce will usher in an era of economic prosperity in the region.

    The Northeast shares ethnic and cultural ties with Southeast Asian countries as the people inhabiting large parts of the region had also migrated from Southeast Asia and South China many centuries ago. These cultural commonalities can be leveraged to foster people-to-people contacts and boost tourism in the region. Capacity building programmes will allow people to acquire required skills for being gainfully employed.

    Given the renewed thrust on improving connectivity through the Act East Policy, a number of cross-border connectivity projects are either being completed or are on the verge of completion. These are the Trilateral Highway and Asian Highway, and the Kaladan Projects with Myanmar and Thailand. A number of road and rail connectivity projects as well as inland transhipment projects with Bangladesh have also been inaugurated. Together with these cross-border connectivity projects, the internal connectivity of Northeast India has also been enhanced. At present, 197 road development projects are being implemented in the Northeast under various schemes. Similarly, every capital of the Northeast states are being connected with railway lines.

    Besides road and railway connections, India is also strengthening transport infrastructure with its neighbours such as Integrated Check Posts to facilitate efficient trade and travel. For promoting commerce in agricultural products, several Agricultural Export Zones (AEZ) have been established. In recent years, Guwahati and Imphal have emerged as significant destinations for medical services for patients from Bangladesh and Myanmar and efforts are on to promote medical tourism in the region in a big way. These new projects which are being built in the Northeast under the Act East Policy are envisioned to provide the region with the required infrastructure, which will form the foundation to usher in growth and development.

    Posted on 01 March 2023

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.