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Look East policy fails in NE: NEFIT
Published on 24 Jan. 2010 12:41 AM IST
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A premier international trade body of the North East has decried the lack of benefit to the region from the country’s ‘Look East’ policy and alleged state governments were responsible for it. “Since it was initiated in 1991, the policy has not benefited as much as it was claimed or should have been till date,” North East Federation of International Trade (NEFIT) chairman R C Agarwal said. Although in the initial stage the focus of the policy was much on ASEAN and proved a success but in the North East perspective it became a failure gradually, he said. He said that till date there was virtually no role for states of the North East while neighbouring China had focussed on developing its backward regions through greater economic ties with ASEAN. “While India is watching and contemplating, China has gone ahead in building new highways linking Kunming (Yunan) with Northern Myanmar and Thailand,” Agarwal said. The Centre must change its perception in understanding the region’s problems and prospects in a more holistic manner, he said. Opening of the Stilwel Road that directly connects the region with South Asia and the trilateral highways for which an agreement has been signed between India, Myanmar and Thailand could do well. For enhancing trade, trade information and visa collection offices of Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh should be set up in either Shillong or Guwahati, which was the gateway to the region, Agarwal said. “India’s policy of strengthening its ties with eastern neighbours has been sadly limited to counter insurgency efforts,” he said. “It is unfortunate that though the region is a natural bridge between India and Southeast Asia, lack of infrastructure and development has plagued the region,” Agarwal said. The entire infrastructure of roads, railway, air transport and communication would have to be revamped to serve the objectives of the Look East policy, he said. The policy, he said, would provide a bridge between the rest of India and Southeast Asia “of which the Northeast will forever remain an underbelly.”

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