SHILLONG, Nov 14 � Underlining Northeastern region as �strategically very important� from several perspectives, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said the Government�s �immediate priority� is to build infrastructure close to the borders with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
�Northeastern region is strategically very important as this region borders three important neighbouring countries � China, Bangladesh and Myanmar�, Swaraj said, in absentia, at the inaugural function of a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) here as her helicopter could not land in the city due to bad weather.
The Minister added that the region from the point of view of foreign and defence policy, internal security and International trade, is very important.
�To this end, the immediate priority is to build the required infrastructure right up to the border areas,� Swaraj said, adding, the infrastructure development must focus on establishing connectivity and communication links to the cross-border points.
This in turn would boost trade and economic exchanges as well as people to people contacts, she said in her speech, which was read out by Muktesh K Pardeshi, joint secretary, Passport Seva Project, here at the State Convention Centre.
Further speaking about the region�s strategic location, Swaraj said �it is in the NER that South Asia begins.� The Union Minister said that the North East has to be enabled to �play the arrow-head role� in furthering the Look East Policy.
Stating that the Look East Policy is being �vigorously pursued� since the take over of the BJP-led NDA Government, she said the focus of the Government is to improve connectivity and promotion of trade-investment and cultural exchanges with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and other ASEAN countries.
Calling upon all Central agencies concerned and State Governments to give priority in taking forward the Look East Policy and also resolve outstanding issues of trade, transit and investment with the countries neighbouring the region, Swaraj said: �It also involves promoting Indian investment in infrastructure in partner countries.�
Overall, she added that �speedier issuance of passport� would help fulfil one of the Government�s objectives and would enable citizens to go abroad for education, employment, tourism and cultural exchanges and provide people to people contact.
She further said that India accounts for 14 per cent passport issuance and it is the third largest passport issuing country after China and US. Considering there are 5.7 crore Indian passport holders, she said that the Government is obliged to deliver this public service which is a major and visible statutory service.