Northeast states to gain from Look East policy: Centre


New Delhi : The government Wednesday decided to dovetail its Look East policy with the development of infrastructure, connectivity and tourism in the northeastern states that act as a bridge between India and Southeast Asia.

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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee held a meeting with chief ministers of the seven northeastern states that focused on finding practical ways to translate the Look East policy into development of the region.

The meeting was also attended by Mani Shankar Aiyar, minister for panchayati raj, youth affairs and development of the northeastern region.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Transport Minister T. Baalu were also present at the meeting.

In his opening remarks, Mukherjee outlined manifold benefits of India’s 15-year-old Look East policy, revolving around greater economic and strategic engagement with Southeast Asia. This policy has resulted in an impressive increase in the quantum of bilateral trade and more people-to-people interaction, he said.

“We have felt for some time the need to focus the benefits of this cooperation more sharply on our northeastern region, which is a natural bridge between India and Southeast Asia,” Mukherjee said in his opening remarks at the meeting.

The chief ministers of northeastern states laid stress on enhancing connectivity and infrastructure in the region, capacity building, future potential for export and tourism, the possibility of institutional cooperation in training and research.

They also underlined the ongoing action state governments are taking to dovetail national development strategies with various foreign policy initiatives.

“Essentially, what we are looking at here is a new paradigm of development whereby our foreign policy initiatives blend seamlessly into our national economic development,” said Mukherjee, while stressing on the symbiotic relationship between foreign policy and development.

“Diplomatic initiatives urgently need to be converted into commercial opportunities. For this purpose, the external affairs ministry will work in close cooperation with the ministry for the development of the north eastern region, the Planning Commission, all economic ministries and the state governments,” he said.