Dr. Mahendra P Lama addresses India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue VIII

The prestigious Delhi Dialogue VIII organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India to promote and strengthen the political, economic, socio-cultural and strategic relations between 10 countries of South East Asia (Association of South East Asian Nations) and India will be over on 19th February in Delhi.

It started on 17th Feb 2016. It is attended by the high level Ministerial and business delegation from Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia. Indian delegation is led by the Smt Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, Chief Ministers, top bureaucrats, eminent academics and well known business houses.

The India-ASEAN trade has already reached a level of Rs 450000 Crore in 2015. ASEAN countries receive the highest amount of US foreign investment. Prof Mahendra P Lama was invited to address a specific session on “Promoting Cross Border Trade with ASEAN: Capitalizing on Comparative Advantage”. He primarily focused on the following issues. i) India’s Look East Policy has reached a crucial phase where the participation of the North East region is very vital. It is because the NER will be a physical gateway to the South East Asian countries as this region has 98 percent of its borders with neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, Bhutan and Nepal and 2 percent with the rest of India. Socio-culturally and historically this region had had very close relations with all these countries. ii) There are several opportunities as the concept of borders is fast changing. Borders are now becoming borderlands where there are huge opportunities for exchanges and interactions in areas like trade, investment, tourism, energy, disaster management, natural resources exchanges, education and health among many countries.

Dr. Mahendra P Lama addresses India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue VIII
Dr. Mahendra P Lama addresses India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue VIII

After the reopening of Nathu la trade route between Sikkim and Tibet the warming up in reconsidering the exchanges in borders have started. Government of India wants this to be consolidated. iii) There are several opportunities emerging particularly in the arena of small and medium enterprises, energy and services sector like tourism, education and health and agriculture, horticulture and floriculture.

For instance, in the Small and medium enterprises like in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand the top multinational with widely accepted brand names like Toshiba, Apple, Sony, Hyundai and Samsung could be invited to Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim. The products could be exported anywhere in the world. iv) In the energy front the NER has almost 40 percent of India hydro power potentials and 18 percent of hydro carbon including gas, oil and coal. Therefore NER could play the role of a centre of energy pool. This could be connected with the Greater Mekong Sub-region where Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunan and Guangxi Zhuang the two provinces of China have made huge cross border electricity exchange projects.

This has been a huge success. v) The small and medium enterprises in the NER should be opened to the investors from the ASEAN countries and whatever they produce could be sold in India and other South Asian and South East Asian countries under the India-ASEAN Free Trade agreement.

For instance, the bamboo shoots, pine apples, avacado, lichis, ginger, cardamom, flowers could be harnessed by the companies like Makro and Alligator Industry of Myanmar. It was suggested that clauses to promote such integration of trade and investment could be included in this agreement. vi) The Ministry of Development of North East Region (MDoNER) could now be located in the North East region only from its present location in New Delhi. This way Ministry can devote exclusive time both to the development of NER and also to strike linkages with the South East Asian countries for promotion of India’s Look East Policy. This way the MDoNER and North East Council could effectively use the huge funds for infrastructure provided by the Central Government. vii) The Darjeeling and Dooars region of West Bengal could also be incorporated in the North Eastern Council so that this regional also get all the facilities. The session was chaired by the Dr Rajat Nag , former Director General in the Asian Development Bank in Manila.

Source: Kalimpong News.

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