A citizens’ platform in Dibrugarh has asked Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to make use of the Act East Policy in boosting the overall economy of the upper Assam region that is geographically closer to Myanmar and other south-east Asian countries.
“Proper implementation of India’s Act East Policy could help bring about a major turn-around in the economy of eastern Assam along with the adjoining states of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. This is all the more required in the backdrop of China making major strides in developing its so-long underdeveloped western region under its Western Development Programme since 1999,” a memorandum submitted to Sonowal by the Dibrugarh-based Policy Group for Peoples’ Rights (PGPR) said.
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“The most notable example of China’s focus in its western region is development of the 1956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway, with more than 80 per cent of the section between Golmud and Lhasa lying at an altitude of 4000 metres and above. Coupled with this is China’s new One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative aimed at fostering greater connectivity and economic cooperation with the Eurasian landmass. Given such developments across the border, there is an urgent need for more emphasis in the upper Assam region under the Act East Policy,” the PGPR said.
Based on the premise that the development of the North East region of the country is an important goal of India’s Act East Policy, the PGPR also asked chief minister Sonowal to lay more emphasis on infrastructure development including extension of high speed fibre-optic Internet connection to the upper Assam districts.
“Dibrugarh on the other hand needs to be developed into a major tourism hub for upper Assam and eastern Arunachal Pradesh,” the group said. With the Dibrugarh airport already expanded, the memorandum suggested that the city should be the entry point for a number of tourist destinations including the rain forests, Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa national parks, Majuli heritage island, the World War II heritage Stilwell Road and the hitherto unexplored districts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh.