Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday said connectivity with the ASEAN was a strategic priority for his government as it was the key to regional development, building capacities and enhancing trade and investment.
"The connectivity with ASEAN is a strategic priority for us. It is the key to regional development, to building capacities and enhancing trade and investment. Moreover, what is important is establishing people-to-people contact and rekindling cultural ties for bringing about durable relationship between India and South-East Asia," Gogoi said.
Speaking at the plenary session of the Second South Asian Diaspora Convention organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore, said that both the Central and state governments are committed to forging strong partnership with ASEAN.
A release from the Chief Minister`s office here quoted Gogoi as saying, "I am happy that today this partnership has become an important pillar of our Look East Policy. Under this policy, the road and rail infrastructure in Assam, which provides vital links to all the states of the North East and to the rest of India, are being developed."
Some border points at Moreh (Manipur), Sutarkandi and Mankachar (Assam), Dawki (Meghalaya), Nathula ( Sikkim), etc., have been opened for bilateral trade and commerce with the countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and China, he said.
He pointed out that Assam`s internal waterways network connecting it to Bangladesh provide access to the ports of Kolkata and Haldia in West Bengal. "Both the land and water routes are available to investors for re-export to East and South East Asia," he added.
Calling for deliberations on the critical intervention required for smooth flow of trade and commerce to the region, he said, "I would urge the Indian diaspora, comprising many enterprising people who have done well in all walks of life the world over to visit Assam and make it their investment destination."
"Geographic connectivity alone is not good enough. We need to see trade facilitation and the transformation of these corridors into economic corridors carrying the promise of economic growth, jobs, development and prosperity across the region," the Chief Minister said.
Asserting there has been a paradigm shift in the economic firmament in Assam and other states of the N-E region, Gogoi said, "The North-East part of India is transforming. The youths of the region have made a mark in various fields both within and outside the country and are ready to face any challenge.
"Assam has a very strong cultural and linguistic affinity with the South-East Asian region. Over the ages many peoples and tribes, including Tai Ahoms, have moved into Assam and have made it their home", Gogoi said.
In fact, Assam is a melting pot of various ethnic and linguistic communities, he added. Terming the migration as a world phenomenon, he said, "Migration has been taking place everywhere in the world since time immemorial. It is simply because people move from one place to another in search of greener pastures."
Showcasing the state`s potential in key sectors, Gogoi also said that emerging from a period of unrest and low growth during the 1990s, Assam has been growing at a steady pace of 6-7.5 per cent over the past several years.
"In fact, the last 10 years have been an era of progress in social and economic sectors with marked improvement on various indicators. While much remains to be done, Assam has successfully implemented a wide range of programmes for human development and economic progress", Gogoi said.
On the tea industry in the state, he said, "to most of the world, Assam is known for its production of tea. Assam is not only the largest tea producing state in India, but is also one of the largest tea producing regions in the world. Its production of around 450 million kg per annum is more than 50 per cent of India`s total tea production.
"Tea being the pride of the state has been declared the `State drink` by my government. In addition to creation of value addition through a large range of tea based drinks, there is a growing attraction for `Tea Tourism` in our state with the Tea Auction Centre at Guwahati emerging as the largest in India in terms of volume of tea auctioned besides an Inland Container Depot near Guwahati for export of tea", he said.