NEW DELHI, Aug 25 - The Three Year Action Agenda unveiled by the Niti Aayog on Thursday has given top priority in ironing out the transit treaties and the development of physical infrastructure between the northeastern region (NER) and neighbouring countries.
The Three Year Action Agenda was formally unveiled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, along with Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and NITI Aayog vice chairman Dr Arvind Panagariya. The Action Agenda is an integral part of the 15-year Vision Document of India being drafted by the NITI Aayog.
About the NER, the report said that the region is rich in natural resources like water, petroleum and natural gas. At least 52 per cent of the NER is covered with forests and is endowed with exotic flora, fauna and a rich mineral resource base. However, physical isolation of the region post-1947 and a pause in infrastructure development after the India-Pakistan war of 1965 have hampered the region�s economic growth.
The Action Agenda said that ongoing transport connectivity projects, including the East-West Corridor, Special Accelerated Road Development Project (SARDP-NE) and Trans Arunachal Highway should be closely monitored.
The Central government should continue the high level of funding at around Rs 6,000 crore per annum. Furthermore, to fulfil the requirement of fast, reliable and frequent intercity services to connect the intra-regional hubs, it said that the speed and frequency of Rajdhani services should be improved from Guwahati. The state governments should get involved pro-actively to address local issues like law and order and land acquisition issues among others.
A key project for international connectivity is the rail link from Imphal to Moreh and further from Moreh to Kalay (in Myanmar). This will link the NER to the Trans Asian Railway network. The cost estimate as per a survey done by the Indian Railways is Rs 5,500 crore for the Imphal-Moreh section, while that for the Moreh-Kalay is Rs 3,000 crore. The ministries of Railway and External Affairs should discuss and concretise further action on this project with the intention to commence construction by 2018, the Action Agenda said.
It further noted that the 4-5 km stretch between the border town of Zokhawthar in Mizoram and Rih in Myanmar is important for connectivity between the two countries up to Mandalay. Upgrade of this stretch should be prioritised and completed in the next three years, the Action Agenda said, adding, the Indo-Bhutan connectivity could be enhanced by entering agreements to construct the 12-km stretch on the Bhutan side that would connect the Himalayan country to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
The report noted that the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers were pivotal river connectivity routes in the region prior to 1947. By 2018, the departments concerned should commission feasibility studies followed with the commencement of dredging and channel stabilisation works for creating around 20 new ports in these rivers, the report advocated, saying such river ports and ancillary facilities would enhance connectivity across the region, besides bringing down the freight costs.
More importantly, the Action Agenda said that in 2017, the protocol for inland waterways between Bangladesh and India should be extended for at least 10 years and not from year to year, which leads to high level of uncertainty. The Ministry of External Affairs should take up the matter with Bangladesh on high priority, it said.
A significant improvement in the region�s sea connectivity, within three years, can be achieved by taking follow-up action on the recent agreement for transit through Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh and executing infrastructure investments at Ashuganj and Akhaura in that country, the report noted, adding, this will add to the existing benefits of the revised India-Bangladesh protocol on inland water transit and trade.