GUWAHATI, July 4 � Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has stressed the need for improving road-air-water connectivity between the Northeast and Southeast Asia as well as exploring new avenues for trade and cultural exchange.
Speaking at a seminar on �Exploring the Linkages with Southeast Asia and China�, organized on Sunday by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi and the Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS), Guwahati, Gogoi mentioned the importance of reopening of the Stilwell Road for the economic development of the region. �Connectivity also involves a connect between minds of people across our borders,� he added.
Gogoi said that security considerations should not hinder efforts at reopening of the Stilwell Road.
He also released a book on the occasion titled An Alternate Strategy for Southeast Asia: Looking through India�s Northeast.
It needs to be mentioned here that speakers at the seminar included former diplomats, veteran journalists, former intelligence officials and academics who said that connectivity between India�s Northeast with the ASEAN bloc as well as with China can transform the economy in the region.
Ambassador Leela K Ponappa, former Deputy National Security Adviser, Government of India stressed on the need for backward linkages between the region and the Indian mainland. She said Myanmar is a vital link between Northeast India and the ASEAN. �The Indian government is currently fully engaged with Myanmar and relations are stable.� She said facilities for export-import must be put in place before a road comes up.
Veteran journalist and author BG Verghese urged the Indian government to go ahead and improve ties with the Southeast Asian nations and China. He said building roads is easy but putting in place a workable travel regime between nations in the area is a complicated process that must first be tackled by the governments in the region. He also stressed on the need for �connectivity of the mind� and cultural connectivity among people in the neighbourhood.
Verghese said he was against a China fixation and felt a 1962-type skirmish between India and China may not occur again. �We should remove our sense of fear and should stretch our hands to China,� he added.
Wasbir Hussain, director, CDPS talked about the shift in focus of the Look East Policy from trade to wider economic and security cooperation, political partnerships and physical connectivity through rail and road links. He also talked about the India-ASEAN cooperation.
Dr D Suba Chandran, director, IPCS, noted economist Dr Jayanta Madhab and SP Kar, IPS (Retd) also spoke at the seminar. Other prominent people who attended the seminar included PC Haldar, former Director, IB, R Ravindran of the South Asia East Asia Group, Singapore, PP Srivastava, Member, NEC, and Prof Baladas Ghoshal, distinguished Fellow at IPCS.