President Ram Nath Kovind Tuesday said that besides being a frontier, the Northeast has been at the heart of the Indian imagination. Addressing a gathering after inaugurating the two-day North East Development Summit at Imphal, the President said he hoped the summit will result in “actionable decisions” on Northeast’s development.
“For a short period in our history, there has been a misconception about the eight states of the Northeast being a frontier of India. I say short period deliberately, after all for hundreds of thousands of years of civilisation, apart from being a frontier, the Northeast has been at the heart of Indian imagination. If you take South Asia and Southeast Asia as a continuum as it has been perceived for most of history, then the Northeast has been in the middle of it,” he said.
“The Northeast has an amazing social and cultural eco-system. Few regions in the world have such cultural, ethnic and religious diversity packed into such a small area,” he said. He also said the geographical location of the Northeast made it an “obvious gateway to India” and highlighted the Centre’s efforts to improve connectivity by modes of road, railway and air to the states in the region.
Later, Kovind also addressed the inaugural event of Sangai Festival.
The summit opened amid a 26-hour strike called by Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation of six insurgent groups, as a protest against Kovind’s visit.
It is being organised by the Manipur government in association with India Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank, and is aimed at “building confidence” and altering the “perception” among visiting delegates and investors.
Ram Madhav, BJP national general secretary and India Foundation director, said, “The Northeast is full of potential but it is greatly underdeveloped. This kind of summit is happening in this state for the first time in 70 years. You can imagine how little attention the region has attracted all these years,” Madhav said.
“Only development can solve problems in this region…the summit will give some ideas to investors about opportunities available in Manipur. Let us hope investments come in,” he added.
Union Minister, Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu, also a director of India Foundation, said the Northeastern states, often referred to as seven sisters, “might be wondering where are my brothers?”
“Today is a special day when brothers from the federal government have come to meet all the sisters, not to tie rakhee, but as a commitment for working together to make this one of the most developed parts of India,” he said, adding that a new industrial policy for the region will be announced soon.
While CMs of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland addressed the gathering, their counterparts from Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim were absent. Organisers claimed invitations had been extended to all CMs in the region. “Unfortunately, some of the CMs could not find time, but they have sent representatives,” Madhav told The Indian Express.