Kohima, Sep 22

Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang on Friday underscored the need for improved connectivity in the North-East region for further growth in the mostly landlocked area and better people-to-people connect.

"North-East region is landlocked, except Assam, therefore air and road connectivities become the feasible options, and people have been using roads mostly because of the poor air connectivity," he said addressing the "4th Connect North-East Summit", inaugurated under the theme "Act East through Nagaland" at the NBCC Convention Centre here.

Sharing his experiences of travelling on six-lane roads in South-East Asia, Zeliang said good roads with beautiful green landscapes on both sides had reached our borders and it should be connected to mainland India by mending the bottlenecks in the North-East roads, like the stretch from Imphal to Kohima.

He said that the dreams of the Look East Policy could materialise if there were more summits like the Connect North-East.

Zeliang said the North-East had huge potential with rich forest and natural resources, a high literacy rate with a vast reservoir of educated and dynamic workforce fluent in English, progressive in outlook and IT-savvy.

He added that the huge tourism potential of Nagaland was lying unexploited.

He said Nagaland shared 215 km of international border and the eight states of the North-East shared over 5,300 km of border with five countries.

"With development of connectivity infrastructure and cooperation with the neighbouring countries, North-East can easily become a major trading and economic hub, connecting South-East Asia and the Asean countries".

Zeliang stated that the most practical road and rail connectivity between India and South East Asia should run through Nagaland to Moreh border via Imphal, the route for which the battle of Kohima was fought during World War II.

"We can access the markets of South East Asian countries through Myanmar and therefore we need people-to-people contact with Myanmar," he said.

Nagaland Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar said improvement in connectivity with Myanmar and beyond would unlock the potential of trade and commerce which would require strengthening of infrastructure and manpower at the trade point.

Moreover, he said that people-to-people connectivity was significant not only from the perspective of the traditional affinity of the communities on both sides of the international border with Myanmar but also for tourism.

Kenko Sone, Minister, Economics Embassy of Japan, speaking at the summit said the north-eastern region was located at a strategically and economically important juncture between India and South-East Asia as well as within BIMSTEC countries and therefore Japan placed particular importance on cooperation with the North-East region.

He said the Japanese government, with a view to encouraging cultural cooperation with the North-East, had initiated the "IRIS Programme" and would invite 25 young people from Manipur and Nagaland to Japan this year.

Japan had been offering extensive cooperation in the North-East region, ranging from road network connectivity, energy, water supply and sewage, forest resource management, biodiversity, people-to-people exchange, Japanese language education and post-war reconciliation, he said.

North Eastern Council Secretary Ram Muivah said only three out of the eight capitals in the North-East states -- Agartala, Guwahati and Itanagar -- were connected by broad gauge rail link.

He voiced the hope that Imphal would be connected by 2018 and Aizwal and Kohima by 2019.

Muivah said the proposed Greenfield Airports at Razhaphema and Itanagar needed to be taken up expeditiously while completion of the Pakyong Airport should be expedited.

 

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