Aizawl, Aug 21 : Building on its relationship with ASEAN countries is the cornerstone of India’s Look East Policy (LEP) and for that the Northeastern States, particularly Mizoram has a key role to play, said PS Raghavan, Special Secretary (Development Partnership Administration) in the Union Ministry of External Affairs. He was presenting his key-note address at the International Conference on Regionalism, Sub-regionalism and Connectivity: India’s Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, held here yesterday.
He said that recent trends show an easing off of security tensions leaving space for countries to pursue cooperation for mutual benefits. “Relationships can grow only when all feel secure”, he said.
Raghavan called on the people of the region to come forward and claim “full ownership” of the LEP, which according to him would usher in an era of development not only for the region but the country as a whole. He urged the people to discern between information and disinformation. As an example, he pointed to the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project (KMMP), a major scheme to geographically link India with Myanmar through Mizoram, in which he termed the concerns of sections of the local people about the adverse environmental impact of the KMMP as “propaganda.”
It is to be noted that the KMMP road project in Lawngtlai district has been halted as it did not have the required forest clearance. But when asked about this during tea break, Raghavan told The Assam Tribune that he did not know about any road project and added “if there is a road project, it is not ours”.
He said that the External Affairs Ministry has made strong efforts to carry the message of Indian foreign policy in the North East. So far, 80 events have been held with institutions, business groups, academic centers, etc.
The two day conference is being organised by the Jadavpur Association of International Relations and supported by the Public Diplomacy Division of MEA, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) and the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR).
Among the guest speakers was Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh Mahbub Hassan Saleh who averred that India should be an ‘elder brother’ though it is wont to go into the ‘big brother’ act when dealing with its smaller neighbours. However, he felt that ‘Indian security concerns have all been addressed’ and they could get down to the business of trading unhampered.
Ernest Bower, Co-Director at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) said that the United States is ‘extremely interested in the LEP and sees a convergence of LEP with the US policy on the Asia Pacific region. “And we cannot think of such a convergence without the Northeatern region”, Bower said.
Lalrinliana Sailo, State Minister of Trade and Commerce said that the link roads should be developed first for the success of the LEP.
Dozens of scholars from across the country are here to present papers. The conference was held at Pachhunga University College in the city as it could not be held at the scheduled venue due to a road block called by local organisations to draw the attention of the government to the utterly bad link road to the Mizoram University Campus at Tanhril.