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Sandeep Madkar asked: How projects like Trans-Asian highway and railway networks would help in ending the isolation of North-East India?

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  • Pushpita Das replies: During the colonial period, the Northeast region was connected to the Indian mainland and rest of the world through undivided Bengal. All transportation lines at that point of time were routed through that province. Thus, the Assam, Garo, Khasi and Lushai Hills; and Tripura and Cachar, were connected with Bengal. The far eastern side of the Northeast was connected to Myanmar by a road running from Assam and through Imphal to Tamu. Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, however, disrupted the colonial pattern of transportation. It not only cut the region off from the rest of India, but also led to increased transportation costs and dislocation of traditional markets. The entire Northeast, thereafter, became landlocked.

    Faced with the twin challenges of integrating the Northeast and assuring its economic growth, India accorded priority to the construction of roads both within the region as well as across the borders. Projects like the Asian Highway and Trilateral Highways when completed will connect the Northeast with South Asian countries like Bangladesh, as well as with the Southeast Asian countries. Improved connectivity would then open up the Northeast for greater trade and investment, provide access to ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar, markets for its products, as well as enhanced people-to-people contact. This would ensure better socio-economic integration of this region with India and rest of the world; thus, bringing prosperity to the Northeast. Moreover, trans-border connectivity would also facilitate India in realizing its goal of economically linking up with East and Southeast Asia through its Look East Policy.