IN WHAT is being read as a signal to China, United States ambassador to India Richard Verma has completed a tour of the Northeast states and has discussed India’s Act-East policy with leaders from the region. Barring Mizoram, Verma has toured all the states in the last one-and-a-half months. “This was the first such trip by a US ambassador,” a US Embassy spokesperson told The Indian Express, when asked about the previous such ambassadorial trip to the Northeast states.
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Sources said this is a key outcome of the “strategic partnership” between the two countries, and Verma’s visit has not been affected by the transitional phase in US administration. “This is a testimony to the fact that the change in administration does not impact US government’s priorities towards us. These are positive signs in the transition phase…(we) will have to see how things develop hereafter,” a source in the Indian government said.
In fact, this is being seen as the first such example of the change in administration from a Democratic President to a Republican Presidency under Donald Trump – in which there is broad bipartisan support towards strengthening ties with India. While there have been big ticket projects on nuclear and defence, New Delhi and Washington’s cooperation in the Northeast is a relatively a new phenomenon.
Verma visited Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura from November 29 to December 3. During the visits, he met separately with Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh, Nagaland CM T R Zeliang, and Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy and CM Manik Sarkar.
“Ambassador Verma held productive discussions with each chief minister on opportunities for US-India cooperation in India’s Northeast region, including how to boost regional connectivity projects and cross-border trade to complement India’s Act-East policy,” the US embassy spokesperson said. “This visit (has) also helped lay the groundwork for the upcoming Indo-Asia Connectivity for Shared Prosperity Conference in Kolkata (on) December 14-15.”
Verma’s visit to the region began with Arunachal Pradesh in October — which was strongly protested by China.