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Chinese incursions may fast-track Act East Policy implementation

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, July 26 - The recent Chinese incursions in Ladakh region may give a fillip to the Act East Policy (AEP) announced by the Narendra Modi government in 2014, stated Dr Amrit Pal Singh, Professor, Department of Commerce, Gauhati University, while delivering a talk on �Look/Act East Policy: Opportunity & Expectations�.

Dr Singh said that the recent developments in the Indo-China border will help bring about an urgency in the implementation of the AEP which was initially started by the PV Narasimha Rao-led government in 1991 as the Look East Policy (LEP). It was renamed as AEP in 2014 by the Modi government.

The basic aim of the AEP is to counter the growing influence of China in the periphery of India especially in the South East Asia region and also the growth and development of economic, social, cultural and security relations with these countries.

Prof Singh gave a background of the policy and the reasons for such an initiative being taken by the Government of India. The objectives of the policy have now been extended to cover also the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan and Australia.

He highlighted some of the major initiatives taken by the Central government especially with regard to enhancing the connectivity with the neighbouring countries of South East Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The main focus has been on road connectivity by building the India Myanmar Trilateral (IMT) Highway which will connect the northeastern states with South East Asia.

Moreh town in Manipur bordering Tamu in Myanmar is perceived as the gateway to connect India to the South East Asian neighbours.

The talk was organised by Guwahati Management Association (GMA) through �Zoom� in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. GMA secretary Bhabesh Hazarika introduced the speaker while the virtual meeting was chaired by GMA president SB Sarma.

The other initiatives of AEP included the Pan Asian Rail Network and the Kaladan River Multi-Modal Project which would help reduce transportation time to the northeastern states by almost 1,300 km. The Gail Authority of India (GAIL) is also conducting a survey for laying a gas pipeline from Myanmar to Tripura.

Dr Singh spoke about the rich agricultural resources available in the North East especially the horticultural products like oranges, pineapples, ginger, green chillies including the famous �Bhot Jolokia� of Assam, bananas, passion fruit, litchis, etc., besides a variety of vegetables which could find a ready market in the neighbouring countries.

Stressing the need for rapid industrialisation in the region by using the rich mineral resources like coal, petroleum, natural gas, limestone, sillimanite, dolomite, uranium, china clay, kaolin, fuller�s earth, feldspar, etc., he said only such an initiative can help bring down unemployment and boost the economic development of the region.

However, restrictions such as the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system need to be removed, he asserted. Other challenges which needed to be overcome include the mindset of the people to accept change. Skill development and training of local people along with financial and infrastructural assistance need to be provided so as to make the LEP/AEP a success, Dr Singh observed.

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