By NJ Thakuria
(Guwahati, 26 November 2013) : Two Burmese political leaders, who arrived in Assam for a business summit, made an unanimous call for improving trade linkages with the northeastern States of India. Addressing the 9th North East Business Summit 2013 at Dibrugarh in eastern Assam, Mandalay chief minister U Ye Myint and Sagaing chief minister U Thar Aye stated that the region, which is adjacent to northern Burma (Myanmar) has a huge potential of trades.
Organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) with supports from the Union ministry for development of northeast India (DoNER), which was inaugurated on November 22, 2013 the three-day summit was aimed to explore the immense potential of development and opportunities galore in the region after building the bridges with southeast Asian nations.
Attending the summit as a special guest, the Mandalay region political head stressed on having intensive trade linkages with the Northeast, especially through Manipur. U Ye Myint argued that the transport facility between India, China and Thailand should be developed that should increase the volume of trade among the countries.
“Since the Northeast is endowed with rich agro resources and has extensive waterline, focus should be given on water-based marketing facilities. Moreover the region has tremendous potential to trade for handloom & handicrafts with Mandalay region of Myanmar,” said the Burmese politician.
Similarly the Sagaing region political head revealed that there is a huge potential of trade between Sagaing region and northeast India.
“Sectors of prime importance include wood based industry, where several States of the region produce commodities based on bamboo and wooden products. Moreover the coal, petro products and limestone are some of the sectors where the regions can work in a collaborated way, thereby leading to mutual benefits of the regions,” insisted U Thar Aye.
At the same time, Lao PDR industry & commerce minister Siaosavanth Savengsuka asserted that India as a whole and his country (Lao PDR) have huge potential for investment in several sectors. Over the years, the interest of doing business with companies of Lao PDR has increased significantly, which has conveyed a sign of optimism to the business sector, he added.
The summit chairman and the DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar emphasized on the sustained development of hospitality, financial services, travel & tourism, handloom & handicrafts, power & energy and oil & natural gas in the region.
“In the 2013-14 Indian Union budget, the government has proposed to seek the assistance of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to build roads in the Northeast and also connect them to Myanmar, which is expected to boost the current growth rate of industrialization thereat,” revealed the DoNER minister.
Addressing the inaugural function, BK Chaturvedi, member of Planning Commission of India, disclosed that the multipronged infrastructure development initiatives in the Northeast become the need of the hour in accordance with the Look East Policy of the Union government.
“The strategies undertaken by the Planning Commission to develop the region and its sectors include providing resources focusing on social & physical infrastructures, integration of the Northeast with its regions and development of the natural resources,” added Mr Chaturvedi.
Arunachal Pradesh industry minister Tapang Taloh, while lauding the ICC initiative expected that it would finally improve the level of economic development of northeast India. Talking about his State, the minister revealed that they have sufficient power generation facility and is also upgrading its present infrastructure for surplus power production.
Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Assam revenue minister Prithivi Majhi, Meghalaya health & family welfare minister AL Hek, Cambodia minister Tith Chantha, Singapore High Commissioner Lim Thuan Kuan, Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukhopadhyay, US diplomat Michael Pelletier, Brunei diplomat to India DP Haji Sidek Ali, DoNER secretary UK Sangma, ICC official MK Saharia etc also attended the summit with other dignitaries.
ADB engagement: The political turmoil may not recede in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the initiative for an inter-country gas pipeline project continues as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been ‘appointed transaction advisor to help attract a commercial consortium leader of global repute that will build, own and operate the planned 1,800-kilometer natural gas pipeline.
The gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan with India is estimated to export up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India over 30 years. The project (TAPI), supposed to be completed by 2017 will allow the landlocked Turkmenistan to diversify its gas export markets to the southeast Asia and it will also provide a vital new fuel source for developing Afghanistan and help Pakistan tackle chronic fuel shortages, said a statement issued on November 19, 2013 by the ADB from Ashgabat of Turkmenistan.
“We are grateful for the confidence the parties have in ADB to help move this important gas project one step closer to fruition,” said Klaus Gerhaeusser, ADB director general in-charge of central and west Asia department. He also added that it would bring ‘multiple benefits to the participants, including access to new markets, enhanced energy security and job opportunities, and have transformational impact on regional cooperation and boost other initiatives aimed at bringing peace and stability to the region’.
The ADB is understood to advise on the establishment of the said gas pipeline project and also ‘handle the bidding and selection of a commercial consortium leader to build, own and operate the pipeline’. The entire project is jointly owned by four country gas firms namely Turkmengas, Afghan Gas Enterprise, Inter State Gas Systems pvt ltd and GAIL (India) ltd.
The energy starved India, which is set to become the third largest energy consumer in the globe by 2025 after the US and China, continues it’s initiative for acquiring natural gas from Myanmar too. However, few days the Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid termed the TAPI gas pipeline project as a real-time investment for the country of one billion populaces. The minister of course admitted that it would be necessary to keep patience as the route involves countries (read Afghanistan and Pakistan) with difficult situations till today.