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Look East : Prime Minister Modi gives priority to Northastern India in BIMSTEC Summit

The Fourth summit of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) was held at Nepal capital Kathmandu on 30th and 31th August 2018. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi attended the summit, along with heads of other member countries.

In his address in the summit, Modi emphasised connectivity and greater “cooperation and coordination” among member states. All speakers in the event resolved to enhance cooperation among the nations. In the side-line of the summit, the Indian PM also held bilateral talks with regional leaders.

An important aspect of India’s participation in this summit was the emphasis given on north-eastern region of India by PM Modi. Speaking at the summit meeting, Modi said that the north-eastern part of India will have an important role in enhancing connectivity with BIMSTEC member nations. He mentioned that the government of India has proposed to extend the “Science and Technology interventions in the northeastern region”, a program for development of northeast India, to BIMSTEC members.

Similarly, the government will provide 24 scholarships to researchers, students and professors from BIMSTEC countries in the North Eastern Space Application Centre. North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) was established as a joint initiative of Department of Space (DOS) and the North Eastern Council (NEC) and it is located at Umiam, Meghalaya.

The northeastern region shares borders with four-member states — Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal, and increased cooperation with BIMSTEC could play a key role overall development of North East India. This also goes along with Indian government’s Look East policy. The government of India plans to integrate the remote northeastern states with neighbouring countries with better connectivity, increased trade networks and enhanced cultural exchange. The Modi government is also working with these nations for seamless road transport across borders. Better cooperation with neighbouring countries is also important in combating insurgency in the north-eastern region.

PM’s emphasize on north-east was reflected on gifts he presented to other BIMSTEC members. The gifts comprised stoles and shawls depicting traditional motifs from the north-eastern states and the Kantha embroidery of West Bengal. The shawls were made from Assam’s famed golden Muga and Eri silk, besides cotton. Muga silk is exclusive to Assam and it has got Geographical Indication (GI) registration for it. Eri silk is also primarily produced in Assam though some other states also make it.

Not only that, a cultural evening was organised at the summit, and India’s contribution to the event was a beautiful presentation of Bihu folk dance from Assam. Official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs posted a clip of the dance on Twitter, commenting on the performance “left the audience spellbound”.

[tweet https://twitter.com/MEAIndia/status/1035185822667026432]

After decades of neglect by successive govts, the current central government has given greater importance to the development of the north-eastern region. States without rail connectivity for more than half century are being added to the rail network, highways are being built at fast speed, river transport facilities being developed. With this enhanced connectivity with neighbouring countries under BIMSTEC umbrella and also with Look East Policy, it is expected that development of the region will finally catch up with other regions of the nation.

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Raju Das
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