ASIAN CONFLUENCE RIVER CONCLAVE 2022
GUWAHATI: "India is more connected to the North-East region and the North-East is more connected to India's neighbouring countries. This means a complete transformation of the regional economy," said External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the Asian Confluence River Conclave 2022 here on Saturday.
"North-East, instead of being regarded as a frontier, will emerge as a hub in itself. Its resources and skills will have a more ready market and the supply lines will be shorter," he said.
Jaishankar pointed out that physical barriers of topography do exist between the North-East and Southeast Asian countries, but these can be overcome via engineering innovation and mutual cooperation.
Citing the example of Guwahati, the External Affairs Minister said, "With Guwahati as the location, we consider the enormous promise that it holds, not just for the region but even beyond our geographical boundaries." He added that India is looking at the feasibility of creating a cross-border railway line from India to Bhutan through Assam for expanding the Buddhist Circuit to connect religious places in Bhutan and Nepal to those in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
He said that earlier the concept of connectivity was restricted to road and waterway communication, but now connectivity is conceptualized with power grids, data corridors, education, tourism, energy flows and cultural contexts.
Regarding rivers, he said: "We used them, dominated them, leveraged them, we blocked them; these have been society's ups and downs over time.
"We carry forward our deliberations, bearing in mind that connectivity, commerce, culture, collaboration and capacity are the core objectives of this conclave," Jaishankar said.
Jaishankar informed that the Shehbazpur-Mahishasan railway link will be extended within Bangladesh and connected with the Kulwara-Shehbazpur line, which is being modernized using Indian line credit.
Addressing the conclave, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that India has always shared ancient civilizational links with the countries belonging to East and Southeast Asia. These links have passed through Assam and the North-East. The ties between the North-East and the ASEAN bloc are historical, cultural, social and economic. Taking this into consideration, Assam and the North-East can be used as a launch-pad for intensifying mutual cooperation, Sarma said.
Presenting a snapshot of the bouquet of potentials available in Assam, the Chief Minister referred to natural farming, health tourism, petro-chemicals, tourism, millet production etc. Sarma also said that the Government is taking a major step for reshaping all vocational skilling efforts in the State by providing quality technical and vocational education.
Speaking on the occasion, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that he sees a timely and commendable initiative in the conclave. The South Asian and the Southeast Asian regions are endowed with ever-flowing and perennial rivers and water bodies. "Rivers do not have religious borders or nationalities. Bangladesh hopes to be the land bridge between South Asian and Southeast Asia. Given our strategic geopolitical location, Bangladesh can be a link to connect India, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and other Southeast Asian regions," Momen said.
He also thanked Assam while mentioning that many people for the State laid down their lives by fighting for the liberation of Bangladesh. He said that he had stayed in Guwahati at the time of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
On the other hand, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai said in a video message that the conclave will facilitate a constructive dialogue among the partners in the Bay of Bengal region and pave the way for stronger cooperation among Governments and other stakeholders through sharing of information and insights.
MP Bezbaruah, chairman of the Governing Council of ASEAN Confluence, said in his address that the North-east region has become the centre of focus for ASEAN countries. He said that the 40 per cent of the nation's hydro-power potential lies in the North-East. "Geography cannot be an obstacle, it may be an opportunity," he said, adding that the Act East Policy has given a new direction to the onward journey of the North-East.