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Rashtrapati’s message

President Mukherjee reminds Delhi of the many unfinished tasks in the Northeast

Published: December 2, 2013 5:10:22 am

President Mukherjee reminds Delhi of the many unfinished tasks in the Northeast

President Pranab Mukherjee’s three-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland was part of Rashtrapati Bhavan’s sustained efforts to nudge the nation towards an appreciation of the strategic imperatives of transforming the Northeast and the region’s effective integration into the Union. Since he was sworn in as president 16 months ago,Mukherjee has travelled thrice to Assam and twice to Nagaland. He has also visited Arunachal,Manipur,Meghalaya and Tripura once. His

visit to Mizoram soon after the state assembly elections would complete the president’s “parikrama” of the Northeast. In his frequent travels to the region,Mukherjee is signalling to the chief ministers and governors of the northeastern states that they have a champion in New Delhi. At the same time,he is pressing Delhi

to keep its promises to the people

of the Northeast.

Taken together,Mukherjee’s speeches in Arunachal and Nagaland articulate a comprehensive Indian vision for the Northeast. The president is convinced that the region has the natural and human resources to embark on a high growth path,provided the bottlenecks in infrastructure and connectivity are overcome. As a former senior minister in the UPA government,Mukherjee is aware of Delhi’s ambitious plans to accelerate the region’s economic development,improve connectivity within and across the Northeast,and transform it from a remote landlocked region into a thriving bridge between India and East Asia. But the president is also acutely conscious of the slow progress in implementing the projects

and the frustrations of people and governments in the region.

Although he does not have any executive power,Mukherjee is using the prestige and moral authority of his office to encourage Delhi to complete what it has begun in the Northeast. During his visit to Arunachal and Nagaland,Mukherjee highlighted two important strategic dimensions — one external and the other internal — of India’s challenges in the Northeast. In Arunachal,whose territory is claimed by Beijing,Mukherjee firmly asserted India’s unassailable sovereignty over the state. At the same time,he offered greater cooperation between the northeastern states and the five countries bordering them — China,Nepal,Bhutan,Bangladesh and Myanmar. In Kohima,where he marked the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Nagaland state,Mukherjee called on Delhi to ensure that “every Naga lives with dignity having equal rights and equal opportunities”. Mukherjee understands the difference between words proclaiming territorial sovereignty and concrete actions on the ground facilitating genuine integration of

the contested zones. The president deserves all support as he reminds the nation of the many unfinished political and economic tasks in

the Northeast.

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