Guwahati, Dec 21: Assams Industry and Commerce and Act East Policy Affairs Minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary, said on Tuesday that after Independence and the simultaneous Partition of the country, the trade routes and transportation linkages through the neighbouring countries were suddenly snapped, rendering the northeastern region land-locked.
Addressing a conclave on 'India's Act East Connect: Prospects and Challenges', the minister said that before Independence, the northeastern region used to have multi-modal transportation networks through roadways, railways and waterways (riverine) through the territories, which are now Bangladesh and Myanmar, to several ports like Chittagong (Bangladesh), Sittwe and Yangoon or then Rangoon (Myanmar).
He said that tea and petroleum used to reach the Chittagong and Kolkata (then Calcutta) ports through the Brahmaputra-Padma-Meghna riverine waterway routes, as well as through railway lines passing through the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
"The then undivided Assam had a per-capita income higher than the national average up to 1950. With the onset of Independence and then the Partition, the trade routes and transportation linkages were suddenly snapped, making the northeastern region land-locked," he said.
The conclave was held at Guwahati on Tuesday under the joint initiative of Act East Policy Affairs Department of Assam government and Shillong-based think-tank and research group 'Asian Confluence'.
Patowary said that lately, things have improved in a significant manner.
He highlighted the initiatives of the Assam government to remove the old notion of northeast India as the 'periphery of the country' to that of the 'centre of South East Asia'.
He referred to the completion of projects like Asian trilateral highway, Sittwe-Kaladan Port in Myanmar, which according to the minister would transform these boundaries into trade, business, and people-to-people corridors.
Principal Secretary of the Act East Policy Affairs Department, K.K Dwivedi, elaborated the history of the vibrant trade and connectivity that previously existed and the need to leverage the geographical locations, increase connectivity, logistics and infrastructure.
"This requires adoption of a multi-ministerial approach and one can foresee the result it may yield for growth and prosperity of the region," Dwivedi said.
Assam Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua delved into the historical and socio-cultural relationship of the northeast region with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.