The Northeast region is the natural gateway for India to South-East Asia and beyond, said President Ram Nath Kovind. He was addressing the valedictory function of the North East Festival, organized by the DoNER ministry as a part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, in Guwahati on May 4.
President Kovind said that with over 5,300 kilometres of international borders with several neighbouring countries, the Northeast region has significant strategic value. With the launch of the Look East Policy (LEP), the security-centric approach towards neighbours in the east gave way to a prioritising of economic issues for benefiting from the common potential for economic growth across the region.
In 2014, the LEP was upgraded to the Act East Policy (AEP) which brought about a paradigm shift and marked a significant change in the potential role of the Northeast region.
The president congratulated the DoNER minister, governors and chief ministers of all the Northeast states as well as the people of the region for their enthusiastic participation in the event.
The president said that when the nation celebrates the freedom movement, citizens recall the valour and patriotism of not only its great leaders but also lesser-known or forgotten participants without whose sacrifice it would not have been a mass movement.
“When we celebrate the 75 years of Independence when we recall the magnificent episodes of our freedom movement when we think of the life and work of our great leaders, we do so in order to gauge where we stand today compared to their dreams. We do so in order to learn more about their vision and be inspired from their struggles to build a better tomorrow,” Kovind said.
President Kovind said that when the nation won Independence, the Northeast region was vastly different from what it is today. Initially, this region had suffered hugely because of the partition of India, as it found itself suddenly cut off from major centres of communications, education and trade and commerce such as Dhaka and Kolkata.
The only corridor connecting the Northeast and the rest of the country was a narrow strip of land in the north of West Bengal, making it challenging to support developmental initiatives in the region.
“Yet, we have diligently worked to overcome the challenges of geography. During the last 75 years, the Northeast has made significant progress on a variety of parameters,” Ram Nath Kovind said.
The president stated that the Northeast region has immense inherent strengths. What it offers in terms of tourism, horticulture, handloom and sports is often unique. He said that efforts are needed now to place the Northeast states on par with the industrially advanced states so that more jobs are created here. Recognising this need, the government is working with the states to improve their ease of doing business parameters and to facilitate the flow of private investments into the Northeast.
Pointing to the emergence of climate change as the greatest challenge before humankind, President Kovind said that careful planning and efforts will be needed in the years to come to preserve the rich ecological heritage of the Northeast. He said that this region is part of the Himalaya and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots – the two of 25 such hotspots in the world. Development choices for the region must, therefore, integrate relevant strategies for natural resource management, green industrial and infrastructure development as well as sustainable consumption patterns.