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Cultural and Educational Exchange between South-East Asia and North-East India

Southeast Asia and India share an intrinsic connection that dates back to centuries. The shared heritage between India and the South-east Asian region ranging from Borobudor in Indonesia to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument in Cambodia, andthe Thai epic Ramakien based on the Ramayana etc are well known and documented.

 Performance of Lao Traditional Music and Dance at the Gala Dinner for ICC India Investrade Delegates at Vientiane, Lao PDR

There is an immense shared cultural and traditional heritage especially between the Northeastern part of India and the Southeast Nations that needs to be explored in order to strengthen the linkages between the two geographical regions. The common physical features, similarities in art and dance forms, social structure, eating habits, weaving motifs, hunting practices and cultural practices put the Northeast region in a favorablejuxtaposition with the Southeast Asian nations.

Bihu Dance performance for the Delegates from Lao PDR for the 1st Laos – Northeast India Business Forum at Guwahati, Assam, India

To accomplish India’s ambitious ‘ACT EAST POLICY, apart from trade ties, cultural and educational tie needs to be synchronized with the SoutheastAsian nations. Socio-cultural cooperation and promotion of greater people-to-people interaction through increasing exchanges in culture, education, youth, sports, science and technology, human resource development and scholarly exchanges are areas which would lead to integration. Dissemination of knowledge about the civilization links between the two regions is a way forward.

International Day of Yoga celebrated at That Luang Temple, Vientiane, Lao PDR

By educating people about our common cultural heritage we can unify and help form close economic collaboration between Northeast India and Southeast Asian nations. Many communities in Northeast India traces their origin south of the Yarlung Zangbo, source of the Brahmaputra River, including the Tai-Ahoms or Ahoms, an offspring of the Tai people who are called Shan in Myanmar, Thai in Thailand, Lao in Laos, Dai and Zhuang in China and Tay-Thai in Vietnam. In fact, there is small community in Dibrugarh, Assam, that till date follows the customs and scriptures of the Tai race and speaks in Tai language.

The oral history of Chin-Kuki-Mizo communities places their origin to Sinlung/Chinlung or closed cave, probably the Great Wall in China. Similarities in the nouns between Chinese languages and speeches used among communities in Northeast India and Southeast Asia are also a point worth investigating.

Golden Pagoda Monastery – Arunachal Pradesh, India

Northeast India houses many important Buddhist sites and important monasteries. The path of the Buddha can be traced from Arunachal Pradesh to Myanmar and beyond. India could then utilize the Buddhist heritage circuits, so that there is an increase in the Asian pilgrims annually. This in turn will encourage greater interaction leading to an increase in trade, commerce and tourism in the entire region.

Educational exchange between the two regions can also boost the ties and help integrate the relation. Courses on Southeast Asian history, politics, languages etc can be introduced in universities so that students are exposed to the world of Southeast Asia. Similarly, there could be exchange of students, teachers between the universities of Northeast India and Universities of Southeast Asia.

India has been supporting ASEAN, especially CLMV countries under the Initiatives for ASEAN Integration, which include projects on Training of English Language for Law Enforcement Officers in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam) countries and Training of professionals dealing with capital markets in CLMV by National Institute of Securities Management Mumbai, scholarships for ASEAN students for higher education at Nalanda University, Training of ASEAN Civil Servants in drought management, disaster risk management, sustainable ground water management etc. To boost people-to-people interaction, India has been organizing various programmes including participation of ASEAN students in the National Children’s Science Congress, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, ASEAN-India Students Exchange programme, ASEAN-India Media Exchange programme etc. Similar programmes needs to be initiated specifically for the Northeast Indian and Southeast Asian students.

An important contribution has been the ASEAN Studies Centre Inaugurated on 8 August 2016, functioning from the Indian Council of Social Science and Research-North Eastern Regional Centre located in the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU) in Shillong. The Centre is proposed to serve as a stakeholder in the North-eastern region and ASEAN by facilitating ASEAN-India research projects, studies, workshops and related activities.

Another is the Centre for South and South East Asian Studies, under the Political Science Department of Gauhati University. These educational centers will surely help propagate understanding of both the regions through research studies into the cultural, political, economic aspects of the ASEAN countries.

Keying on the traditional and cultural link, Northeast India can act as bridge for India to the Southeast Asia Nations and help bring forward a synergic relation that stands to benefit both the regions.

#NortheastIndia #SoutheastAsia #Culture #Education #HSMMGroup #ACTEASTPOLICY

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North East India and South East Asia: An amalgamation of culture and heritage

The South East Asian countries have so much in common with the Northeastern part of India. Though separate as nations and region, the Southeast Asian countries and Northeastern region of India bond over the similarities they share with one another in terms of culture and heritage. It is fascinating to witness the unique cultural practices of one community being replicated and performed by people in a different country altogether. Such connections naturally play to bring communities and countries together.

Festivities are a great source of happiness and a celebration of belonging to a community. The festivals of Rongali or Bohag Bihu in Assam, Pi Mai in Lao PDR, Songkran in Thailand and Sangken in Arunachal Pradesh are threaded together by being rooted in same cultural and traditional practices. This sameness creates feeling of oneness with one another and is a vector for forging stronger ties between the two regions.

The New Year festival is celebrated in Lao PDR, Thailand, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam around the same time in the month of April and holds significant similarity with one another.

Pi Mai Celebration, Lao PDR

Pi Mai Lao is the Laotian New Year celebrated around the same time as Bihu in Assam, Songkran in Thailand and Sangken in Arunachal Pradesh. The Pi Mai Lao celebration has become synonymous of Lao identity. The celebration attracts much fanfare with traditional throwing of water on each other, parades and dances and singing songs. The ritualistic cleansing of statue and images of Buddha is also done. Devotees collect water falling off from the statues and images and pour on one another as an act of ridding them from past sins.

Sangken Celebration, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Similarly in Arunachal Pradesh, Sangken festival is celebrated with fervor and zeal in the Tai Khamptis, Singphoos and Tangsas (Tikhaks) inhabited districts. It marks the advent of the New Year. This three day festival is also celebrated with people throwing water at each other. Though it is celebrated all over the Tai Khamptis, Singphoos and Tangsas (Tikhaks) inhabited districts with great enthusiasm, it is in The Land of the Golden Pagoda Namsai and Chongkham, Empong, Phaneng and Karoni (Assam) that these communities hold the very important ritual of bathing the Buddha and people from all over come to witness this event. The pouring of water is symbolic of the cleansing of the spirit, mind and body.

Songkran Celebration, Thailand

Synonymous to these festivals, the Songkran is celebrated in Thailand. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. Water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual of this festival. It is a festival of unity and so people who have moved away usually return home during the holiday to their loved ones and elders. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition. The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word sakranti literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change.

Rongali Bihu Celebration, Assam, India

In the same note Rongali Bihu is celebrated in Assam with the same zest. It is a joyful festival celebrating the New Year and start of spring harvest. Dancing, singing, visiting relatives and receiving blessings from elderly are some popular activities during Bihu festival. Offering of white-red cotton scarves (called gamosa), betal leaves and areca nuts on tray is made to the senior relatives or respected elders to receive their blessings.

These festivals offer a unique standpoint for both the region to assimilate and form a stronger association basing on the common cultural practices and legacy.

Tourism opportunities can be exploited during the festival times. Themed based tourism plans can be mapped out where people could plan to celebrate the festivities in the other’s land with the same fervor as they do back home. It can also be highlighted that the language of the Tai people living in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam has some similarities with the language spoken in Thailand and Lao PDR as they all are a branch of Tai-Kadai language family. With both business and political leaders of the region looking to open this corridor of opportunity, it is now time that the region become an amalgamation pot of culture, business and tourism.

We should capitalize on our cultural, languages and ethnic similarities between Northeast India and Southeast Asian countries to create a flourishing and synergistic tourist and trade economy between the two regions.

#NortheastIndia #SoutheastAsia #Culture #RongaliBihu #PiMaiLao #Sangken #Songkran #HSMMGroup #Tourism #ACTEASTPOLICY #ASEAN

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Tourism Opportunities in Southeast Asia and Northeast India

Tourism development not only brings great financials dividends to a country but it also strengthens the ties of the people and culture. As such boosting of tourism ties between the Southeast Asian Nations and Northeast of India promises to create a market of great economic potential for both the regions.

The Northeast India is a viable tourist destination with a galore of eco-spots, national parks, cultural monuments, pilgrimage sites, wildlife and regions of pure scenic beauty. Apart from this, Northeast is also favorably situated in close proximity with the Southeast Asian region, sharing borders with Myanmar, China, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Thus, Northeast India can become the grand gateway to the Southeast Asian nations. If a smooth functioning transit corridor is established, it will not only boost tourism but will benefit trade linkages between the regions. Although steps been taken in creation of such a corridor but it still requires a vehement approach in order to strengthen this linkage.

India Myanmar Thailand Friendship Car Rally 2016

Knowing the viability of tourism prospect between Northeast India and Southeast Asia, it is time to put forward actionable plans to reap benefit of such ties. There are certain steps needed to be taken on priority basis such as developing connectivity; be it by air, road or water. Currently air connectivity fairs poorly in propagating an easy flow of people or trade, to and fro, between the two regions. Proposals for Greenfield airports in the Northeast have barely taken root, and the future of an Open Skies Policy as introduced by the ASEAN-India Aviation Cooperation Framework, is also unclear. These policies need to be reviewed and implemented soon. The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is an ambitious road connectivity project which is still underway. When constructed, the road is expected to boost not only ASEAN-India Free Trade Area but increase tourists’ inflow and outflow to both the regions. In a bid to strengthen connectivity, Prime Minister Modi has shown his keen desire for early completion of the ‘Road to Mandalay’ project. This 3200 kilometer long highway has the potential to act as a game changer for the entire Northeast region. The project will drastically enhance connectivity between the Mekong sub-region and India. The highway project, which begins from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay in Myanmar, will throw open India’s eastern border to a new bus route from Imphal to Mandalay – which would enable travelers to reach Mandalay from Manipur in just over 14 hours.

Mawlynnong Village – The cleanest village in Asia (Meghalaya, India)

The Northeast governments and the Indian Government should attract tour operators both the national and international levels to establish offices where North-East region-specific tours are made available to the population. If pre-packaged plans can be arranged, it may ease the travel planning for potential tourists to North-East. In order to fulfill the goal of the North-East as a bridge between mainland India and South East Asia, the North-East tourism websites and operators must provide details in Southeast Asian languages and perhaps have updates stressing the historical and cultural linkages between people and places in the North-East with the South-East Asian countries which would garner a feeling of belongingness and increase the chances of North-East being chosen for a holiday or tour.

Living Root Bridges – Meghalaya, India

Umngot River – Dawki, Meghalaya, India

Review of the Restricted Area Permit (RAP), Protected Area Permit (PAP) and the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to promote tourism is also another crucial aspect. The ILP is required for Indian citizens who wish to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram; the PAP and the RAP are applicable to foreign nationals who have to be granted special permission to travel on recognized routes by the relevant authorities. Easing of such permits, provided they do not hamper the security of the region, will go a long way to flourish the inflow of tourists to these places.

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Forging on the shared religious and traditional history of Buddhism, creation of tourism route based on Buddhist circuit is a great medium to attract tourists. ASEAN member countries have already been working on the development of Buddhist circuits within their own countries, on a bilateral basis and at the regional level, including taking it up with India. The idea of marketing ASEAN and India as an integrated circuit was endorsed at the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting way back in 2008 and is seen as an area of enormous potential.

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Wat That Luang, Vientiane, Lao PDR

Also in the gamut of India’s ACT EAST POLICY, Tourism opportunity ushers in a pool of economic development in varied areas. A well-planned tourism activity will usher in development, create jobs and provide additional source of revenues which is particularly significant for Northeast India. Always shrouded in isolation with insurgency perils and underdeveloped infrastructure, Northeast thus have much to gain from investments in Tourism as it will surely ripple effect into development in general for the region.

Pakse, Lao PDR (The Famous Bolivian Plateau)

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Greater Mekong Sub Region Connectivity and Opportunities in North East India

Six nations bordering the Mekong river namely, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Yunnan and Guangxi provinces of China collectively form the economic entity known as the Greater Mekong Sub Region (GMR).

This economic cooperation program was inaugurated in 1992 through the initiative of Asian Development Bank (ADB). This initiative has projected the development of the economic corridors in Southeast Asia to enhance connectivity within the region. It provides a benchmark for successful sub-regional and cross-border cooperation and has achieved significant progress in the construction of road networks and transportation regulatory arrangements.

The Greater Mekong Sub region (GMS) is a market of more than 240 million people and a land area of 2.3 million square kilometres. There are abundant resources, including a rich agricultural base, extensive timber and fisheries resources, considerable mineral potentials, and vast energy resources in the form of hydropower and large coal and petroleum resources and availability of low cost workforce. Thus in term of resources, natural and otherwise, this region has the potential to turn into a major economy hub in Southeast Asia with proper investment and development of infrastructure.

The GMS has played a key role since its inception in 1992, by facilitating Southeast Asia economic integration. The GMS have focused on a number of infrastructure projects to connect the countries in the sub region via economic corridors. These projects have developed road and rail networks and air transport in the GMS countries, which can be useful “ready-made” links for South–Southeast Asia connectivity. An additional consideration is the role of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It serves as a secretariat to sub regional arrangements in the GMS as well as in South Asia, such as the South Asia Sub regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC).

Connectivity with Northeast India

India has a lot to benefit by strengthening trade relation with the greater Mekong Region. Since the 1990s, when India ushered in great economic reforms, ‘the look east policy’ was implemented which saw the promotion of trade partnership and connectivity projects being laid out. Creation of a smooth connectivity with the Southeast Asian region has been a key element in India’s policy of seeking partnerships on economic, technical and strategic fronts. But unfortunately these policies haven’t been really able to tap the economical opportunities available in this region.

Presently the ‘look east’ policy has been approached with a new fervent with ACT EAST POLICY. During India’s Prime Ministers visit to Myanmar to attend ASEAN Summit in November 2014, he announced transformation of India’s ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East Policy thereby indicating that New Delhi is ready to put more substance in realizing the goals of such a policy. While Myanmar is a lynchpin and one of the most important gateways for getting connected to the ASEAN and the region beyond India’s Northern Eastern states also have a greater role to play by serving as a firm base for launching

India’s Act East policy

As part of this renewed Look East and now ‘Act East Policy’ initiative, India spearheaded the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Initiative (MGCI) in November 2000, with India, Cambodia, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam as members. MGCI has four basic objectives apart from identifying common heritage and cultural linkages. These are: tourism, culture, education and transport and communications. These initiatives included Mekong-Ganga Tourism Investment Guide, promotion of tourism in famous cultural and religious sites, preservation of ancient manuscripts, heritage sites and artefacts, increasing student exchanges through providing scholarships, and improving and developing road, rail and air links between these sites. This multilateral initiative was not only designed to improve the cultural ties, but also strengthen the commercial links and connectivity between India and the member states. There have been several other initiatives in the last one decade to concretize a sub-regional cooperation such as the South Asia Growth Quadrangle initiative, Kunming initiative, the Bangladesh-China- India and Myanmar (BCIM) initiative, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Techno-Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC). However, not much material is available on the outcomes of these projects. Nonetheless, Northeast India should actively participate in forming trade relation with the Greater Mekong Region due to its close proximity with the region and also cultural and territorial similarities The concept of the Mekong-India Economic Corridor (MIEC) has been under consideration for several years as a major India-ASEAN connectivity initiative. Integrating the four Greater Mekong Countries, namely Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with India through its east coast and North East region, it will link vibrant emerging economies through a network of land and sea infrastructure.

On the similar line to Mekong-Ganga plan, we could rather focus on Mekong- Brahmaputra Cooperation Initiative. The corridor is envisaged as a dynamic industrial region comprising large investment zones, rapid port and rail connectivity, and smart cities. Thus, development of infrastructure and connectivity networks in the North East region and their linkages to the Greater Mekong Sub Region, whether over land or through maritime domain will be intrinsic to the success of India’s Act East Policy and ASEAN economic development.

Namami Brahmaputra, a five-day river festival, is going to be held across 21 districts in Assam from March 31 to April 4. The festival will showcase the National Waterways, especially NW-2 from Dhubri to Sadiya, which is a bridge to drive economic progress in South East Asian markets, as part of India’s ‘Act East Policy’

A trade relation with GMR region with Northeast is sure to pay great dividends. Therefore effort needs to be paced up to strategize systemic business engagement with the Greater Mekong Region. The Northeastern region of India is an essential factor in extending linkages with the Southeast Asian countries, it is important this region jointly participates in the development process of the region. Similar to the GMS structure where the Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region are at the front line of China’s participation in the regional structure, the Northeastern states too needs to be integrated into the eastern periphery of Greater Mekong Region.

#CLMV #ACTEASTPOLICY#NortheastIndia_CLMVBusinessSummit2017 #NamamiBrahmaputra

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The North East India-CLMV Business Summit 2017

The recently concluded North East (India) – CLMV Business Summit 2017, organized by ICSI and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, in association with Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) in Assam was a great success. The event was chaired by Chief Guest Shri HonchunNgandam, honorable Education Minister of Arunachal Pradesh State Government, India.

I was honored to be part of this business summit and share the stage with honorable Ministers, Bureaucrats, Government Officials and other dignitaries. The theme of the conference was ‘Deliberation on Trade Potential of Services between NER (I) & Cambodia, Lao DPR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) countries’. The discussions were focused on various topics including Education, Higher Education Infrastructure, Education Exchange, Skill Development, Capacity Building, Healthcare, Herbal Medicines, Ayurveda, Investment opportunities in CLMV, Incentives for North East Indian Companies for starting businesses in CLMV countries etc.

My address at the summit was keyed on identifying the need for“Skill Development and Capacity Building” in CLMV countries. The CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam) covers 32% area of ASEAN and 165 Million populations. The majority of population is unskilled and have low literacy rate. The understanding of business languages like English is very limited. Thus it is required to uplift the Education standards in these countries. It is also advisable to introduce more Vocational Training Centers providing industry specific trainings. The Education Exchange programs between North East India and CLMV will boost the skill development in CLMV.

The CLMV countries like Lao PDR have priority list for FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) under which they provide special subsidies and tax benefits to the investors. The priority list of Lao PDR includes Education, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals and Agriculture. The Lao PDR is very peaceful country and safe for investments. There is a single party government and all policies are investment friendly. They have single window policy for FDI so that you can receive all the necessary information, permits and licenses from one office.

Assam in North East of India is gateway to South East Asia. Also the distance of CLMV countries from Guwahati (Capital of Assam) is less than New Delhi (Capital of India). The distance from Guwahati to New Delhi is 1462 KM and Guwahati to Myanmar is 1133 KM, Guwahati to Lao PDR is 1441 KM, Guwahati to Cambodia is 2128 KM and from Guwahati to Vietnam is 1546 KM. As we could see that some of the CLMV are much closer to North East India than the country’s own capital, there is huge opportunity in strengthening the strategic bilateral ties between North East India and CLMV countries.

The industries in North East India should plan to invest in CLMV. There are special grants and benefits from the Government of India under “Act East Policy” to promote SME in CLMV (ASEAN). Also the construction of the Trilateral Highway joining India to Myanmar and Thailand will benefit the trade with CLMV. I am thankful to the EXIM Bank of India to come forward and showing active participation in facilitating the investors from India to invest in CLMV. I appreciate the initiative of EXIM Bank of India to finance 60% – 75% of the total project cost for promoting SME in CLMV. The EXIM Bank of India is actively looking for projects such as Medical College and Hospital, Coffee Plantation, Pulses Farming, etc. in CLMV to be taken by the companies from North East India.

#CLMV #ACTEASTPOLICY#NortheastIndia_CLMVBusinessSummit2017

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Shri Honchun Ngandam, Honorable Education Minister, Government of Arunachal Pradesh address at North East India-CLMV Business Summit

North East (India) – CLMV Business Summit 2017, organized by Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC), in association with International Chamber for Service Industry, was held on 24 and 25 March at Guwahati. Shri Honchun Ngandam, honorable Education Minister of Arunachal Pradesh State Government, India was the chief guest at the summit. His address at the summit called for joint efforts by the government and private sectors to tap the abundant natural resources of North East India for socio-industrial development of the region at par with other states of the country.

The world has become truly a global village and fraternal ties between nations and trading blocs are fast developing into time-tested relationships, said Arunachal Pradesh Education Minister Honchun Ngandam, adding that economic cooperation has become so vital that no nation can escape from the reality of a global village.

Addressing the two-day international conference of ‘North East (India)-CLMV (ASEAN) & amp; business summit’ as chief guest here during March 24-25 last, he termed the historic opportunity attended by dignitaries from India and CLMV nations a solemn partnership gathering between ASEAN and NE India for greater economic cooperation between India and ASEAN, particularly Cambodia, Lao DPD, Myanmar, Vietnam on trade potential of services between NE(I)& CLMV countries, according to an official release.

The conference, themed ‘Deliberation on Trade Potential of Services between NE(I); Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam countries’ (CLMV)’, was organized by Union Ministry of Commerce and Industries in association with Service Export Promotion Council and powered by International Chamber for Service Industry at Hotel Radisson Blu here.

It is the desire of a billion-plus Indians that people to people and region to region contact between the five great nations, India, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam should be encouraged and enhanced so that bilateral ties become more sustained, strategic, meaningful and deep-rooted.

The GoI had evolved the Act East policy under the leadership of visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi; since whole NE India and South Asian economies are similar in nature and such strategic policy would be symbiotic and provide ample opportunities for future cooperation and integration.

NE India, better connected with South East Asia (SEA), actively trading with ASEAN countries, especially with Bangladesh and Myanmar, he said, adding that NE region blessed with abundant natural resources for socio-industrial development as the resources are still utilised to fullest potentials, which are waiting to be tapped to take NE at par with other developed states of India.

“The region has certain distinct advantages as it is strategically located with access to traditional domestic market of eastern India, besides proximity to major states in the east and adjacent countries, such as Bangladesh and Myanmar. The NE is a vantage entry point to SEA markets. The resource-rich NE India with its expanses of fertile farmland and a huge talent pool could turn into one of India’s most prosperous regions,” he said.

“We believe that conventional market-based solutions may not work here, given the issues related to poor infrastructure and connectivity, unemployment and low economic development, law and order problems, etc. The Govt. and the private sector need to collaborate and take a lead in providing solutions to these problems.

“More reform needs to be initiated in a range of areas, such as investment in agriculture, horticulture, overseas exchange programme in education, hydropower, and infrastructure as well as in creating new avenues for economic growth through the development of vertically integrated food processing chains, herbal medical sector, market-linked skill development and cross-border trade.

“As multiple avenues for growth and development emerge, it is of paramount importance that the region, as a collective identity, embarks on a vibrant journey to realise the dreams for the better future,” Ngandam added.

Union Ministry of Union Ministry of Commerce additional economic advisor, TPD; EP (Services), and Service Export Promotion Council Director General,Sangeeta Saxena, speaking on the theme, highlighted the rising importance of international trade and investment as a growth facilitator and growth driven for regions. She said that “international trade has gained significance and has been growing rapidly in the CLMV countries with the establishment of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), which has also resulted in increase in both amount and volume of intra-trade flows. The share of CLMV region in ASEAN’s total trade has increased from 6.7% in 2005 to 17.4% in 2015, where CLMV’s share in ASEAN’s exports increased from 6.1% in 2005 to 16.2 % in 2015 and, imports increased from 7.3 to 18.7% during the same period”. She suggested to tap the share of exports & imports in CLMV countries from NE(I) as the region has close affinity in demography, features, socio-cultural and climatic condition.

Assam Govt. Commerce & Industries additional chief secretary Ravi Capoor, in his inaugural address on NER(I)- CLMV countries, exhorted that the NE is closer to capitals of CLMV nations than the financial capital Mumbai by air. Connectivity- both physical & soft infrastructure connectivity remains one of the major obstacles in enhancing trade between India and CLMV countries and people to people connectivity including exchange of students, cultural programmes, tourism, education, media, among others are the need of the hour, and in this direction, India has been working on some important connectivity projects with ASEAN + 6 for sustainable development between India and CLMV, he said.

Lao PDR Ambassador in India Southam Sakonhninhom,  Vietnam Ambassador in India Ton Sinh Thanh, Myanmar Embassy Economic Advisor, Cambodia strategic trade & services advisor Sudhansu Pandey, Union commerce department GoI, Sikkim Govt Chief Secretary & HRDD Head G. P. Upadhyaya, Assam Govt additional (CS, planning & Dev) K. V. Eapen, among others, addressed.

Dr. A. Ibotombi Singh (OSD) RUSA, higher & technical education directorate, GoAP, presenting a talk on “Higher & technical education in NE India: An introspection of Arunachal Pradesh in the era of globalization and CLMV countries” in technical session, advocated students’ exchange programme and vocational training of teaching faculty between Arunachal Pradesh and CLMV nations, Nitin Kumar Tripathi (OSD,technical) H&TE directorate, GoAP presented a paper on ‘Higher education, herbal health & wellness in Arunachal Pradesh’, Banu Dai, RGGP herbal technology department head took part in technical session panel discussion & coordinated the cultural bonanza of the event.

Ngandam with dignitaries released ‘Vision document on education and skill development & capacity building’ on Saturday and distributed honour certificates to all participants of cultural bonanza based on herbal health & wellness industry on Friday evening.

Lao PDR Ambassador Southam Sakonhninhom assured to invite Ngandam leading a team of H&TE officers on a ‘strategic education tour to Lao PDR’ soon.

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“North East (India) – CLMV Business Summit” 2017

I will be attending the “North East (India) – CLMV Business Summit” conference tomorrow, 24th March 2017 at Radisson Blu, Guwahati. The event, which will take place on two days 24th and 25th March 2017, is being organised by ICSI and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, in association with Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC).

The summit is aimed at identifying specific project opportunities and seeks business partnerships in the region. The conference will focus on two key service sectors in the region i.e. Higher Education and Health-Wellness-Herbal Medical Services; including need based Skills Development & Capacity Building for both the sectors.

The objective will be to highlight the untapped potential of services sector – catering to domestic and International demands in Northeast India and CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) of the ASEAN region. The event aims to attract strategic investment, promote business opportunities within and outside the region and boost International trade in services for specific sectors along with exchange of skilled manpower. The summit will provide the leaders of the region an opportunity to interact with government and business stakeholders representing the four countries and the Northeast.

The summit will also facilitate as a platform for the decision makers from CLMV countries and the Northeast region to engage with business owners and leaders involved in education, health and skill & capacity building sectors. The summit is expected to help create a convergence across sectors and regions in terms of skill training activities and help expedite decision making process across sectors to achieve higher engagement and standards.

I believe this summit is an important development for the region as well as for the ACT EAST POLICY of India Government. The event will strengthen our ties and bring decision makers in one platform, which will allow us to share our visions and plans much faster.

#CLMV #ACTEASTPOLICY #NortheastIndia_CLMVBusinessSummit2017

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CLMV and India Bilateral Trade

Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos), Myanmar and Vietnam, collectively called ‘CLMV’, are an integral part of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, covering 32 percent of its geographical area and account for around 9% of ASEAN’s gross domestic profit.

CLMV forms the third largest economy in ASEAN, followed by Indonesia and Thailand. Due to close proximity with these countries, India is looking to boost trade and investment with the region as part of the “Act East Policy”.

These countries have been undergoing a transition from central planning to market economies. CLMV nations are considered among the fastest growing economies in the region. They are primarily agrarian, and have enjoyed a certain degree of macroeconomic stability in recent years. These economies are endowed with abundant natural resources and low-cost work force.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech of 2015, had stated that “The Act East Policy of the Government of India endeavours to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations in South-East Asia. In order to catalyze investments from the Indian private sector in this region, a Project Development Company will, through separate Special Purpose Vehicles, set up manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries, namely, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.”

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her inaugural speech at the 4th India – CLMV Business Conclave, 2017 in Jaipur, expressed hope that India will be able to partner in more trade initiatives with these countries to develop a strong India-CLMV vertical within the ASEAN market. India’s trade with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam has already spiked to 10 billion USD from USD 1.5 billion in the last 10 years.

With tri-lateral highway, connectivity in the North East, port connectivity improvement and the Act East Policy, there is immense possibility to further extend the trade association. The External Affairs study proves that there is a huge potential of about 100 billion USD dollars of additional export.

The adoption of “Look East Policy” by India in the year 1992 was an initiative towards developing extensive economic and strategic relations with the ASEAN nations (including CLMV countries). Since then India has progressed from a dialogue partner to the present status of a strategic partner in the ASEAN bloc. There has been massive trade expansion due to the intensified economic engagement.

India’s exports to the CLMV countries mainly comprises pharmaceuticals; machinery and instruments; vehicles other than railway; plastics and articles thereof, and cotton. On the other hand, India’s key imports from the region include rubber and articles, wood and articles of wood, ores, slag and ash, mineral fuels, oils and distillation products, and coffee, tea and spices. India’s approved direct investments in joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries in the CLMV countries amounted to US$ 40.9 million during 2013-14.

As per official statistics of the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade with CLMV countries has been showing an upward trend over the past decade and a half. Bilateral trade was USD 0.46 billion equivalent in 2000, increased to 4.97 billion in 2010 and reached 11.85 billion in 2014. India’s trade with these countries is approximately 16 per cent of its overall trade with ASEAN. This has the potential to expand to diverse areas, including agriculture, agri-processing, agro-chemicals, mining, oil and gas, energy, healthcare, information technology, skill-development and textiles.

A Project Development and Facilitation Framework have been proposed to step up India’s engagements with CLMV countries. The proposed framework and its integral components will act as a vehicle for facilitating investments from India into the CLMV region. This will be major step towards the overall Act East policy of the Government of India as it is expected to promote India’s political, economic and strategic interests in the region.

In the past decade, to bring the trade tariffs under control, CLMV countries have implemented import restrictions on a number of consumer goods (including some types of alcohol, automobiles and food products) that remain in place. In recent years, CLMV countries have repeatedly raised import tariffs on selected steel products, increasing them (in some cases) to the maximum tariffs allowed under the country’s WTO commitments. However, things are looking better with proposal such as onetime tax on goods either imported or exported within CLMV and India. This is expected to largely reduce spike in prices and increase in trade flow.

Lao PDR is recognized as one of the most resource rich countries in the South East Asia. The country has significant potential for the discovery of new ore deposits and their successful development of a medium to large scale mining industry. The key materials mined include coal, metals (copper, gold, zinc etc.) and industrial minerals (cement and potash). The geological potential to develop mineral resources in Lao PDR is also good for gold, silver, copper, iron and bauxite. Hydropower, also has huge potential in Laos, happens to be the country’s largest foreign exchange earner. Thus, the country poses a unique opportunity in establishing economic growth and socioeconomic advancement with its abundant resources.

Banking on these opportunities, we at HSMM Group of Companies, continue to invest and develop the trade relation between Laos PDR and India.

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The Growing Business Ties between North East India and ASEAN Countries

North East India due to its critical geographic location is considered to be the bridge between two sub-regions of Asia-South Asia and Southeast Asia. The North East consists of eight states, shares an international border of more than 4,500 km with countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal while it is connected to the rest of India through a 22 km narrow link – Siliguri corridor.

This shows that the region has great advantage and potential to transform. India and the countries that share borders with the North East constitute a market of about 2.81 billion people which is roughly 40% of the world population. With 98% of North East India’s periphery lying in between the Asia-South Asia and Southeast Asia, the region has the potential to transform into the principal gateway to international trade, increasing the scope of trade between ASEAN countries.

Of these five bordering countries Myanmar is the only ASEAN nation to share a land boundary with India showing both the regions’ critical importance in India’s foreign policy.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN consists of ten member countries viz. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia. The association was set-up to accelerate economic, social, cultural growth and facilitate education, agriculture and industries among the member countries.

The North-Eastern region of India lies in such a strategic location that it can act as a key player in ‘Act East Policy’ of India by partnering with ASEAN which will be vital for the economic development of the Northeastern region. Act East Policy holds a prime place in India’s new proactive policy, as it is meant to boost commerce, connectivity and cultural ties with ASEAN. The trade between India and ASEAN is mostly manufacturing products and is restrictive towards the agricultural products. Therefore there is a need to focus on other aspects such as education, culture exchange program and tourism. In order to take the advantages of the growing trade alliances, effort should be on improving inter-state connectivity and market integration.

For developing better business ties among ASEAN and North East, priority should be given to upgrade the economic corridors. Road is an important mode of travel in this region due to its hilly terrain. In the last few years, constructing the Stilwell Route/Ledo Road has been seen as a medium to extend trade linkages with Myanmar and China.

The trade groups in India, especially in the Northeastern region have shown keen interest in reopening this strategic roadway because of its enormous economic potential. Besides airways and railways can be good ways to connect to the neighbouring countries of the region.

The limited industrialization that the region has so far seen has been centred around a few resource-based industries such as petroleum and natural gas, tea, coal, jute, forest products, some mineral based industries and some micro household industries such as handloom and handicrafts. The organised sector includes tea, petroleum, paper, cement, plywood, coal, jute, sugar and a few others while the unorganized sector represents a majority of enterprises in the region and includes the handloom and handicrafts, small food processing units, etc. By far the most important industries in the region are the tea and petroleum industries. The flow of trade in the NE region has therefore been witnessed around these commodities. With rich mineral bases, the region’s exports have primarily been raw materials such as coal, limestone, bamboo, fruits and vegetables while it has been importing mostly finished products from neighbouring countries.

Southeast Asia has rich and diverse set of natural and tangible and intangible cultural tourism resources located in both rural and urban areas. The region’s 11 natural and 17 cultural heritage sites inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List highlight and reflect its unique heritage. Enmeshed with its natural heritage is a rich and diverse endemic ethnic culture with overlays of Arab, Chinese, Indian, and European influences. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious traditions, and vernacular architecture, music, literature, and indigenous knowledge enrich the region and add to the appeal of its outstanding natural heritage, its rural landscapes, and its vibrant urban centres.

Southeast Asia holds great prospects for the Northeast India as a market and vice versa within the ambits of the Act East Policy (AEP) and the Vision 2020 document, which deals with the international facet of tourism promotion. Also, developing backward tourism connectivity with other parts of India is as important an element of strides in tourism as developing links with Southeast Asian countries, which answers to the national aspect. For this reason, it is important to recognize tourism as a promising revenue generator.

India has a major partnership with her neighbouring ASEAN countries in trade and investment.

Myanmar, a member of ASEAN, has become a major link between India and ASEAN countries. And North East, particularly Manipur ought to become the center of thriving and integrated economic space linking two dynamic regions with a network of highways, railways, pipeline, and transmission lines crisscrossing the region. Development of the North East is thus integral to India’s policy on Myanmar. North East is a corridor and a transit route to South East Asia. Infrastructure building tops the priority.

The Indian government is giving a renewed push to road connectivity with Southeast Asia. The India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway starts from Moreh in Manipur on the India-Myanmar border and runs via Tamu (Myanmar) to Mae-Sot in Thailand. The project will require about 78 km of new roads and the upgrading of existing 400 km of roads. In Phase 1, India has the responsibility of building 78 km of missing links, upgrading 58 km of existing roads, and possibly improving a further 132 km. Thailand has taken on the responsibility of upgrading a total of 192 km in this phase and another 100 km under Phase 2. The idea of the trilateral highway was conceived at the Trilateral Ministerial Meeting on Transport Linkages in Yangon in April 2002. The 1,360-km IMT highway was initially scheduled to be completed by 2015. According to an official from India’s MEA, the completion of the project is now expected by 2020.

The North East has the potential to become a manufacturing hub and for this, the region needs to be connected more densely with the ASEAN and beyond. This will require building infrastructure – roads, railway lines, river transport, airports, tourism infrastructure, border check-posts, educational, and health infrastructure, etc. India’s North-eastern region is one of the pockets that do not seem to have profited in the changed economic environment. With its geographical remoteness, inherent deficiency in infrastructure and the bad publicity for recurrent ethnic strife and militant activities, the region obviously could not become an attractive destination for private capital investment. But in the period in which closer cross-border economic ties are being forged in many parts of the world, border trade has come to be looked upon with a lot of expectations in this region as a means for breaking free from the shackles of geographical isolation. All but two per cent of the boundary of the region happens to be international border which is shared with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. While trade with Bangladesh and Bhutan has assumed importance in the wake of attempts to forge greater South Asian regional co-operation, trade with Myanmar has acquired added significance in the context of India’s proclaimed ‘Act East Policy’ because of Myanmar’s geographical proximity to the prosperous economies of South-East Asia and China. In other words, trade across Indo-Myanmar border is perceived as not merely a two-country affair but a via-media for closer economic ties even with counties to the east and south east of Myanmar. India’s north eastern states and Myanmar should be the main target markets of many products manufactured in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to once again make India’s north eastern states and northern Myanmar a natural economic zone, which they historically were, providing a sustainable economic life line to the north eastern states. But this would require enormous fast-paced infrastructure development on the Indian side of the border with Myanmar.

India’s North East is among the most endowed states in terms of the natural resources, including several critical minerals that it possesses, and has substantial potential for generating one of the preferred low-carbon forms of energy, viz. hydro-electricity. Besides, it sits at the door-step of the East Asia, the region with which India is increasing its economic ties.

The region is unique in terms of the opportunities it offers. While it is an industrial desert where almost all immediate consumables are imported from outside the region, the Northeast is the focal point of trade within a vast area. About 96 per cent of this region’s borders form India’s international boundaries. So the region enjoys very special advantages over other parts of India in trade in view of India’s Act East Policy in general and India’s economic engagement with her eastern neighbours through India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and other bilateral FTAs in particular. The official trade, mostly under barter arrangements, is modest and dwindling. There is a need to plug into the growing trade with ASEAN countries particularly in items like bamboo and wood products, ores and rubber products, horticulture, etc. At the same time, it is imperative to integrate IT facilities in promoting infrastructure for trade with the ASEAN countries. There is urgent need to promote interaction with neighbouring countries for enhancement of cross-border trade and investment.

The progress of the Indo Myanmar border trade is slow and takes place in goods domestically produced in India, informal trade from Myanmar to India through Moreh is done in both domestically produced in Myanmar and goods originated in third countries such as: China, Korea, Japan, etc. Various forms of restrictions in the border trade, law and order situations and multiple check-posts on the national highway are impeding the progress of border trade. It may also be worth noting that border trade between India and Myanmar has created a large number of employment opportunities among the economically active people living on both sides of the border as well as in different parts of Manipur.

In a bid to increase the trade volume between India and South East Asian countries, the Ministry of DoNER and Government of Manipur has come up with proposal of setting-up ‘Border Haats’ (border markets for cross border exchange of goods.) viz. Kongkan Thana in Ukhrul district of Manipur and Aungci of Myanmar; New Somtal of Chandel in India and Thenjen of Myanmar and Behiang district of India and Khenman of Myanmar.

To deepen the relations between India and ASEAN countries, the Ministry of External Affairs, India with cooperation from ASEAN nations took the initiative of organizing the India-ASEAN Car Rally. The proposal for the rally was first mooted by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the ASEAN-India Summit in Bali, Indonesia to bring India closer to the South-East Asian group. The rally organized from time-to-time, aims to create unprecedented people-to-people contact among these nations, demonstrate India-ASEAN proximity and road connectivity and promotes infrastructure development, especially to facilitate road transport, also enhance trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people links.

The 1st edition of the India-ASEAN Car Rally took place from 23 November– 06 December 2004 and was held in 8 countries covering over 8000 km and included 240 participants with 60 vehicles. The rally was flagged off by Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh from Guwahati on 22 November 2004 and a ceremonial flag-off took place at Vientiane, LAO PDR on 30 November 2004 by Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Heads of State of all ASEAN nations during the 3rd ASEAN-India Summit. The last India, Myanmar and Thailand Friendship Motor Car Rally, was held in November of 2016.

India-ASEAN trade is growing at an average annual rate of 19% and the current trade volume is around US$75 billion. This is a very good indicative of the potential trade volume that North East can alone achieve with ASEAN if proper trading channels are streamlined.

In this 25th anniversary year of ASEAN-India relations, if we can diligently follow the ACT EAST POLICY there is a tremendous economic potential that can be unearthed in the next 10 years. The North East has immense potential to grow and the ties between the ASEAN countries can be beneficial if proper support and border trade is facilitated.

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