Govt plans Rs45,000 crore investment in north-east states
New Delhi: India on Thursday sought Japan’s assistance in a slew of areas—tourism, skill development, food processing, infrastructure development as well as making buildings resistant to earthquake damage—in a bid to fast-track development in its north-east region.
Addressing the first Japan-India Coordination Forum for Development of the NorthEastern Region, Naveen Verma, secretary in the ministry for development of the north-eastern region, said India plans to spend Rs45,000 crore for the development in the region bordering China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
“This is being spent in pockets. What we are looking at is the gaps, the gaps that are not being met either by the state plans or by our interventions,” Verma said, adding “that is an area where we can look at the scope of collaboration.”
Verma noted that India’s north-east had a lot of skilled manpower which “can certainly help boost the Japanese economy.”
Given that the north-eastern region has 3% of India’s population and 8% of area, “distances are such that we need lot of investment in infrastructure. That’s one area that we are looking at, one of the takeaways,” Verma said.
“Of course we are also in seismic zone V. So, lot of building technologies will be useful. In fact, look at natural calamities, the entire north-east is very vulnerable,” he said.
Given the north-eastern region’s strategic location, India has been keen to involve countries of South East Asia and East Asia in its development. Singapore, Thailand and South Korea besides Japan are some of the countries India has invited for investment and skill development in the region.
Given its un-demarcated border with China and China’s close ties with Pakistan, New Delhi has been wary of involving Beijing in the region’s development. China, on its part, claims almost all of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet—something India rejects.
India is currently engaged in a tense military standoff with China in Doklam region of Bhutan.
In his remarks, Japan’s ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu described Japan as a “a natural partner for the development of the north-east region.”
India’s “Act East strategy” and historical and cultural linkages between India and the East Asia were two reasons for forging close ties with Japan.
“The north-east region is located at the strategically and the economically important juncture between Japan and South East Asia as well as within between Bimstec (Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand-Economic Cooperation) countries. Therefore Japan-India have placed particular importance on the cooperation in north-east, which is clearly and repeatedly stated in the joint statements of our annual summit meetings,” Hiramatsu said.