After receiving an overwhelming support from corporate leaders and business representatives at the first North-East Business Summit in Mumbai in July 2002, this year the Department of Development of North-Eastern Region (DONER) and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) organised a two-day (January 20-21, 2004) 2nd North-East Business Summit in Delhi. At the Summit public and private sector heads networking with policymakers, business representatives and the Governments of the North-East States in 12 specific sessions explored possibilities of external aid and investment in key sectors including energy, infrastructure, bio-technology, health care, agro and food processing, bamboo-based industries, IT and tourism.
Addressing the inaugural session of the Summit at Vigyan Bhawan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that India was working actively to promote regional and sub-regional trade and economic cooperation. He informed that the North-Eastern States could become our economic bridgehead to South-East Asia, and vibrant commercial exchanges with South-East Asia could galvanise growth and development in the North-East.
Prime Minister urged all the eight States in the region to prepare together the ground to participate vigorously in the emerging opportunities with the South-East Asian neighbourhood. Making an emphatic appeal to State Governments in the region he said, “The Centre has taken a conscious decision to provide more resources and incentives for development of the North-East. However, it is the responsibility of the State Governments to demonstrate visibly that the funds are used properly.”
As for dealing with various challenges, PM said that his Government had evolved a comprehensive strategy with multi-pronged initiatives and the peace process had moved forward considerably in some of the troubled States. “My visit to Kohima in October 2003 gave me an opportunity to see for myself that the people of Nagaland are yearning for peace and the State’sspeedy all-round development”, PM said. He informed that between 1998-99 and 2002-03 the Centre had released over 44 thousand crore rupees for North-Eastern States which included five thousand seven hundred crore under PM’spackage.
Shri Vajpayee said that the trade between India and ASEAN countries had grown about 25 per cent in the last year and the Government had achieved this in the Indo-ASEAN Framework Agreement for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation. The PM has set a target of a 30 billion dollar trade turnover with ASEAN by 2007 and to achieve a Free Trade Area within 10 years. He stated that India had taken steps to strengthen its multifaceted economic relationship with China.
The Prime Minister said that in order to increase regional economic cooperation in North-Eastern States, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand formed a regional orgnaisation for economic cooperation-BIMST-EC.
Shri L.K. Advani, while addressing the valedictory session at the 2nd North-East Business Summit said that when India moved towards a more closely-linked global world economy, it was important that the country should consolidate its competitive advantages. This is specially true of the North-Eastern States as regional cooperation has become the new economic driver. Shri Advani remarked that it was ultimately the economic realities that would attract, sustain and spur investment and growth in the region. The Vajpayee Government had tried to eliminate the psychological distance, which was a common perception earlier, between Delhi and North-Eastern States, he said. Therefore, a separate ministry for the North-East was created with this in view. “The North-East is blessed with several advantages of huge energy potential, large agricultural base with wide bio-diversity, skilled manpower and high literacy rates. These must be harnessed to the maximum. India’s?Look East Policy? has brought major rewards. Since the North-East region is close to ASEAN countries, stronger business ties can be promoted with ASEAN”, Shri Advani added. Dr. C.P. Thakur, Minister for Development of North-Eastern Region, wel-coming the Deputy Prime Minister to the Summit said that DONER was striving hard to fulfil all the promises made by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister on their visits to the North-East. Describing the Summit as a success, he informed that 17 MoUs had been signed in the Summit. The potentials of the North-East were highlighted in the Summit and all the Chief Ministers of the North-East showcased the unlimited opportunities of the region in a convincing manner. Now, it was for the investors to go and invest in the North-Eastern region to help realise its economic potential. He said that one medical college would be opened in Tripura while in Manipur the demand for construction of a hostel each for boys and girls and fencing of universities had already been agreed to. One big hospital would be coming up in Meghalaya while one nursing college would be established there this year. Shri Tapan Sikdar, Minister of State (DONER) said that the North-East was a region with tremendous economic strength and implementation of right policies would bring in a new era of growth to the region. He said that NDA Government paid much more attention to the North-East in allocating more funds and creating an innovative pool of resources, i.e. Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources(NLCPR). Steps had been taken to connect the North-East nationally and internationally (via Mynamar & Thailand), he added. The valedictory session was attended by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ajai Singh, Governor of Assam and Chairman of North-Eastern Council; Shri Tarun Kumar Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam; Shri D.D. Lapang, Chief Minister of Meghalaya; Shri Neiphiu Rio, Chief Minister of Nagaland; delegates and officials. Responding to Deputy Prime Minister’sobservations, Shri Vikram Thapar, President, ICC, announced that the next North-East summit would be held by the end of this year in December itself. He also urged the Government to set up a committee with Government-private partnership to prepare a White Paper for development in the North-Eastern region.