NEW DELHI, July 19 - With the Northeastern States demanding access to Chittagong Port in Bangladesh, Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen VK Singh said that Act East policy is not just a progression but a leap forward from the Look East policy, asserting that Act East policy is wider in scope geographically and is more action-driven and result-oriented.
The 10th edition of the Delhi Dialogue got underway here today. The theme this year is �Strengthening India-ASEAN Maritime Co-operation�. The Delhi Dialogue was opened with a roundtable with Chief Ministers of Northeastern States. This shows the focus that government places on North East, said the Union Minister.
The roundtable was attended by most of the Chief Ministers of the Northeastern States barring Assam. The State was represented by State Industries Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary.
The Minister added that efforts are on to reinforce ancient links of culture and cooperation with the ASEAN region. He said government envisions Northeastern States to be active partners in developing linkages with the ASEAN. He further stated that as part of Act East Policy, North East has an important bearing on how things will evolve. He asserted that inclusive development of North East is a priority for the government.
The Ministers of Northeastern States spoke about the region�s relationships with ASEAN at a special plenary in the Delhi Dialogue. They said their States should have access to Chittagong port.
In his speech, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said connectivity is a key issue which needs to be addressed. He said Chittagong is the closest port to the Northeastern region and access to this port should be provided. He also said that ASEAN countries should open their Consulates in NE. Sangma pointed out that people from North East have to travel all the way to Kolkata to get visas.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla highlighted that his State shares borders with two countries, Myanmar and Bangladesh. He further stated that India does not have any territorial dispute with any ASEAN country.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said North East holds tremendous potential for enhancing ties with Southeast Asian region. He talked about the reforms his government is taking in Tripura to realise this potential.
Earlier, making her welcome remarks, Secretary (East), Preeti Saran said the Delhi Dialogue has evolved into a useful forum to brainstorm all aspects of ASEAN - India relations. She said it has contributed significantly towards strengthening strategic partnership. Saying that ASEAN lies in the heart of Indo-Pacific policy, she expressed confidence that today�s interactions will help give a boost to India�s relationship with ASEAN countries.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is scheduled to deliver the key-note address of the two-day event this evening.