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Shillong: “North East chief ministers should speak with one voice on important issues of the region,” Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said at the interaction with Japanese Ambassador, Kenji Hiramatsu at the Asian Confluence here on Monday.
Sangma stressed on the urgent need for inter-state connectivity and pointed out that Japan could be a strategic partner in providing assistance for eight lane or at least a four highways connecting all the state capitals of the North East.
Pointing to the sixth visit of the Japanese Ambassador to the region — but only the first one to Meghalaya — Conrad said this clearly reflects the intention of Japan and India to take the North Eastern region to new heights.
“We have to make sure that the Japan-India ties and its focus on the North Eastern region are taken forward in the right way,” Conrad said, adding that in any relationship trust is essential and India and Japan have established that trust over years of cooperation.
“Trust takes time to build and India does not share this kind of trust with any other country in the world. Connectivity is at the core of taking the Act East Policy to the level of the Act East Doctrine which is soon going to crystallise into concrete action plans,” Conrad said.
He mentioned the meeting of North East chief ministers with Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj recently and said that issues of connectivity in the region, climate change challenges and mechanisms to enable adaptation and mitigation were taken up.
Addressing the Japanese Ambassador, Conrad said that while Japan would be hosting the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, Meghalaya would be hosting the National Games in 2022 so Japan might perhaps share some of the sporting infrastructure which are of temporary nature since not all fixtures need to be permanently constructed.
He also stated that since Meghalaya is reliant on Horticulture and Agriculture, Japan could share technology and expertise in that area.
Speaking of the Act East Doctrine, Conrad said that if one were to take a flight from Guwahati in the North East one can tough several capitals of South East Asia, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh et al, before touching Delhi and this is what the Act East Doctrine should be focussing on.
“We have to ensure that Chittagong port is opened up to enable better trading facilities and India needs to invest in connectivity to this important port,” he said.
Earlier, Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu outlined the different areas of Indo-Japan cooperation and pointed out that Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) to India jumped from US $ 2.6 billion in 2015 to US $ 4.7 billion in 2016.
This expanding investment is now accompanies by investment in people and skills. Five Japan-India Institutes for Manufacturing (JIMs) have been inaugurated to introduce and accelerate future workshop leaders’ training in Japanese manufacturing practises. Hiramatsu said as far as North East is concerned Japan is supporting road connectivity improvement throughout the region starting from NH 54 in Mizoram, NH 40 and 51 in Meghalaya. NH 40 runs from Guwahati to Shillong and Dawki in the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Japan is also supporting the expansion and upgradation of the Shillong-Dawki strip and the construction of the new Dawki bridge which will sustain a heavier load than the existing 90 year old bridge. This should significant improve the flow of cargo and people to benefit Meghalaya and the North East.
Earlier in the day Ambassador Hiramatsu planted a Sakura tree on the Raj Bhavan premises to mark the beginning of a cultural exchange between Japan and Meghalaya since the state also has Cherry Blossoms flowering profusely during October–November.
The meeting captioned – Emerging Contours in India-Japan Friendship: Reflections in the “Third Space” from India’s North East – saw participants from NEHU and a cross section of society.