NE ‘worries’ over India-EU pact

By Our Reporter

 SHILLONG: A proposed “free trade” agreement between India and European Union has led to a fear of over exploitation of mineral resources of the north-eastern region and its adverse impact on the region’s still-backward economy.

The India-EU pact, if materialised, would attract huge foreign direct investment which would be detrimental to various mineral and other resources in the region, according to the North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF), which has been campaig-ning against the proposed agreement.

The NEDF during an interaction programme here on Tuesday expressed its apprehension that the agreement would result in large-scale mining of various minerals in the region.

The Forum, with its headquarters in Imphal, has around 200 NGOs under its ambit in all the eight states of the region.

The EU and India began negotiations in 2007 on the free trade agreement which could generate a two-way trade worth about $134 billion annually.

According to NEDF, there should be more transparency and the entire agreement should be discussed with all the stakeholders. The talks for the agreement are being held under “secrecy” for the last four years, the Forum alleged.

“If the free trade agreement is materialised, our mountains would disappear as there would be large-scale mining of minerals; our rivers would diminish as huge dams would be built for power generation,” Forum convener U Nobokishore said.

“What will happen to the indigenous people once the land becomes exhausted?,” he added.

The proposed agreement is also feared to have a detrimental impact on the on the agricultural sector of the region.

PBM Basaiawmoit, a church leader and member of the Forum, said the free trade agreement would facilitate the sale of “Californian oranges” at the cost of locally-grown oranges from Sohra (Cherrapunjee) and Ri-War areas of Meghalaya.

“Californian oranges would be made available at cheaper rate compared to the oranges grown in Sohra and Ri-War areas. Then what will happen to our farmers?” he asked.

Kavaljit Singh, an associate member of the NEDF, said the proposed agreement had a worrying clause which enables European investors to sue the Indian Government in a court located in a third country.

So far, 13 rounds of talks have been held between India and the EU on the agreement while the 14th round of talks is going on in New Delhi which would culminate on Thursday.

“The government should weigh the pros and cons of the agreement before agreeing to it,” Singh added.

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