Jaishankar: ‘Act East’, ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies to have impact beyond South Asia


External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar said that the realisation of this is evident from the potential of BIMSTEC in the Bay of Bengal region.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said that the coming together of India’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies will have an impact on the country beyond the confines of South Asia.

Addressing the Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence (NADI) Asian Confluence River Conclave in Guwahati, Jaishankar said, “The coming together therefore of the Act East and the Neighbourhood First policies have an enormous reinforcing impact. And it is one that extends beyond the confines of South Asia.”

The EAM said that the realisation of this is evident from the potential of BIMSTEC in the Bay of Bengal region.

During the event, Jaishankar said that if the land connectivity between Myanmar and sea connectivity between Bangladesh become viable then on a commercial scale, it will create an East-West lateral with sweeping consequences for the continent. He further said that it will be not only build on the partnership that India has with ASEAN countries and Japan but the ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ will also make a difference.

Recently during the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Japan, the member countries including India discussed on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework which will enable the United States and the allies to decide on rules of the road that ensure American workers, small businesses, and ranchers can compete in the Indo-Pacific.

Jaishankar said that the restoration of six historical cross-border rail links, dormant since 1965 is one of the major steps. He also said that the Shahabazpur (Bangladesh) to Mahishasan (Assam) link, which is the operational one, will be extended within Bangladesh and connected to the Kuluara-Shahbazpur rail line currently being modernised using an Indian line of credit (LoC).

“Inaugurated in December 2020, the Chilahati-Haldibari (West Bengal) line will further enhance Assam’s connectivity to Bangladesh through New Jalpaiguri, including passenger traffic. A new rail link from Akhaura (Bangladesh) to Agartala (Tripura) too is being developed under grant assistance and we all know that this is already increasing trade between India and Bangladesh,” Jaishankar added.

The EAM also informed about the projects that India is collaborating with Bangladesh on a series of road projects including the improvement of the Ashuganj River Port-Akhaura Land Port Road under an LoC of more than USD 400 million.

He further informed that the road project which is connecting Baruerhat to Ramgarh on the India-Bangladesh border, will increase Tripura’s road connectivity with Bangladesh and is being implemented under another LoC of USD 80.06 million.

“The success of four border haats between India and Bangladesh in the period before the pandemic has spurred enthusiasm. This encouraged us to set up three new haats in Meghalaya, inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Bangladesh in March 2021,” Jaishankar said.

He further said that nine new haats are being set up, three in Meghalaya, four in Tripura and two in Assam. Cross-border power transmission lines and digital connectivity infrastructure offer additional dimensions of connectivity.

MEA Dr S. Jaishankar nteracting with students at IIT Guwahati

Jaishankar, in his address, said that better connectivity is central for improving the business and easing livelihood in the state, for which they would need to tackle the topography-related challenges.

“Better connectivity is central to improving ease of doing business and living. We need to tackle topography related challenges,” he said.

“India that is more connected to the northeast and northeast that is more connected to India’s neighbours will be a transformation for the region,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that his government is working to make the state an industrial hub.

Sarma said, “Northeast is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia. Our government is working to make Assam an industrial hub not only for the region but also for catering requirements of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.” (ANI)

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