India, Japan push connectivity with SE Asian & East Asia via Assam

India and Japan on Monday pushed for greater connectivity to SE Asia and East Asia through Assam, pivotal state in the region. “The advent of colonialism and the subsequent emergence of nation-states effectively disrupted what was a very seamless connection between eastern India and Assam and the world to our East. This may have been a phenomenon for everybody in Asia, but for India and Assam, that disruption was also aggravated by the Partition of India. And if that was not enough, it was magnified by the absence of efforts on our part for many many years to build the compensatory connectivity and that of course has changed since 2014,” Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said in his speech at a Forum titled, ‘Act East Policy and India-Japan cooperation in North East India with a special focus on Assam’

“It is from this viewpoint that one should understand the Act East policy of the Modi Government. This is an approach to create connectivity to and within Assam, beyond to the North-East, then to neighbouring Myanmar and Bangladesh, but eventually push all the way by road, by sea, by air to Vietnam, to Japan.”

Referring to Indo-Japan security ties he said it is based on a shared commitment to a peaceful, open, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. It is actually remarkable that within a decade, the India-Japan partnership is today seen in Asia, perhaps the world, as one of the most natural and close, he affirmed.

Underscoring significance of India’s partnership with Myanmar, the Minister said, “The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is at an advanced stage as we look now to construct some missing road links in central Myanmar and upgrade bridges in the Tamu-Kalewa segment. Studies have assessed the viability of extending it further from the Thai border through Laos, all the way to central Vietnam. The Kaladan multi-modal transport link including the Sittwe Port and the Paletwa Inland Water Terminal will add to our access to the Myanmar coastline.”

Assam also stands to benefit from the activities of a regional organization called BIMSTEC, the Minister informed.

Japanese Ambassador Satoshi Suzuki, while visiting Guwahati, Assam, attended the symposium together with Jaishankar, Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal and other high ranking officials of Assam Government, held at “Srimana Sankaradeva Kalakshetra” (Assamese cultural center), and made a speech concerning Japan’s cooperation in the State of Assam and the North East.

Suzuki visited of Assam in following up with the Act East Forum (AEF) held on 28th January. The AEF was established in 2017 when Jaishankar served as Foreign Secretary. Currently, Ambassador Suzuki and Foreign Secretary H V Shringla are co-chairing this important forum on the development of North East.

Suzuki stressed that the potentials of Assam and the North East, situated in an important location to realize our vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, need to be fully tapped in India’s quest towards the 5-trillion-dollar economy. For that end, Japan has been engaged in efforts to enhance connectivity of North East. For example, the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge will link Assam and Meghalaya over the Brahmaputra river, dramatically shortening the travel time from more than 8 hours to less than 30 minutes.

Suzuki touched upon the importance of entrepreneurship in his address and expressed his hope for promoting business in the North East. The Ambassador introduced the Japan Endowed Course (JEC) set up in IIT Guwahati and young Japanese entrepreneurs assembling e-rikshaws in Assam, as well as Japan’s willingness to cooperate to build bamboo value chains. The Ambassador also shared his expectations for utilization of the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) and the system of Specified Skilled Worker.

Suzuki and Jaishankar also visited the Guwahati Water Supply project site. Together with the Guwahati Sewage project, they will help upgrade the health and sanitation in Assam. The Ambassador expressed in his remarks that Japan would like to cooperate in the field of healthcare and sanitation as they have become even more important in the post-COVID period.


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