With 5300 kms of international boundary, the North East frontier of India lies ensconced in centre of a very dynamic and economically resurgent region of South East Asia comprising of countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar. The economic potential of a region flagged by some vibrant economies is enormous and one would usually expect that a region like the North east would be engaged in a healthy economic relationship with these neighbouring countries. However, the reality is a far cry from the expected. The 8 states of the North Eastern Frontier of India have hitherto been unable to capitalize on the geo strategic advantage of sharing international borders with several countries. With the potential to be the hub of economic activity for entire South East Asia, the region has so far been lagging because of inadequate connectivity infrastructure in the North East in terms of surface and air transport, regulatory and bureaucratic bottlenecks, poor diplomatic and people to people connect with neighbouring countries, lack of entrepreneurial spirit in local population, deficient investors’ interest in the region etc. The region is a glaring example of oversight and it is ailing with poor connectivity infrastructure even within the region itself. The connectivity linkages with the rest of India are also in a precarious state of affairs as the region is connected by a narrow land corridor of 22kms in width which is already congested with the few rail and road lines. Transmission and telecommunication linkages through the corridor has dwindled the opportunity for expanding linkages through this Chicken’s Neck Corridor.
However, in recent times the region has been to be looked upon with renewed interest and the Government of India has given a clarion call for the development of the region through its Act East Policy in a way to capitalise on the unutilised potential for international trade and commerce and at the same time to revitalise the region’s economy.
The recently announced plans of awarding road projects of 1 Lakh Crore in the North East in the next five years and the declaration of 18 National Waterways in the region are some of the recent developments which puts the North East in focus of the central government. Alongwith the initiatives like Make in India, Skill India the increased attention in improving international economic ties with countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal etc with the North East at the helm of affairs is also on a positive note of things
The Kaladan Multimodal project, the trilateral Highway, Trans Asian Railway and the Asian Highway Network are some of the game changing projects at various stages of progress which would in the future reorganise the strategic and business dynamics of the region. At the same time, we are witnessing epic changes in political and economic framework of neighbouring countries. The rise of a democratic Myanmar, the improving bilateral ties with Bangladesh, the growth of South Asian Economic engine has captured attention of not only India but also the developed world. India stands to gain from the changes in its eastern neighbourhood if it focuses on the efforts to capitalise on the crucial advantage it has through the frontier of North East India. The timely completion of ongoing infrastructure projects, creation of new green field infrastructure to aid connectivity and trade, policy reforms, cooperation with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar etc would be key to the future of the region as a hub of International trade and commerce.
North East Connectivity Summit
North East Connectivity Summit is a cross sectoral initiative of FICCI with the objective of highlighting the connectivity gaps and proposing a comprehensive connectivity agenda apart from encouraging private sector investment in connectivity infrastructure. The summit has help bring into focus the opportunities in developing connectivity of North East and its associated strategic and economic advantages for the entire India. The summit has metamorphosed into a unique platform for strategic dialogue between various stakeholders including government of India, BBIN and South Asian countries, Private sector and others. The summit has helped gain intellectual input from various expert agencies on the theme of connectivity aided development with North East at the centre stage.
In order to catalyze economic connectivity and facilitate infrastructure intervention from both the public and private sector, FICCI has been organizing North East Connectivity Summit (NECS).
Connect Northeast has successfully completed 4 editions starting from Shillong in 2014 moving to Guwahati in 2015 and then to Agartala in 2016 and in Kohima last year. As the challenges of connectivity in Northeastern India started to find solutions, NECS became bigger and more intense with every passing year.
From geographical disadvantage, the NER is now seen as a strategic advantage. The change in attitude has been built up over time as Connect Northeast Summit has effectively highlighted:
- strategic importance of Northeast India as frontier for international trade and commerce specially with Southeast Asian Countries
- major international projects like Kaladan Multimodal Project, Asian Highway 1, Asian Highway 2, Trans-Asian Railway, etc which have the potential to change the economic landscape of entire region with Northeast India at the center of it.
- creation of awareness about the issues of intra-region connectivity as well as alternatives to the ‘chicken neck connectivity problem’ of the region. These summits were successful in garnering interest and engagement of senior representatives from the Government of India, the State Governments of the region, a cross section of industry, international delegations, and Multilateral agencies like the World Bank and UNESCAP. Apart from highlighting the opportunities and challenges, the summit was successful in generating a lot of fresh ideas. The private sector from India and abroad have also shown a lot of interest in investing in infrastructure in the North East
Further to these, NECS has helped in creating a repository of knowledge papers which are some of the most sought after resources on connectivity in NER as well as with neighbouring countries.
The success of the past summits may be adjudged by the fact that some of the key recommendations of Connectivity Summits that have found reflection in major Government initiatives. Some notable ones are:
- 18 new waterways have been declared in North east
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has announced developing National Waterways-2 and 6 for the purpose of inland water transport at an estimated cost of Rs. 141 crore.
- 1300 KM Expressway along the banks of river Brahmaputra with an investment of Rs. 40,000 Cr.
- New road projects worth Rs. 1 Lakh Cr. in North East in the next five years announced by Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Govt. of India
- Renewing protocol with Bangladesh on inland water transit and trade
- Agreement with Bangladesh for starting trans-border bus services on the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala routes.
- Ministry of Civil Aviation has proposed to build an Aerotropolis in Assam
Key Highlights of Past Summit
- Engagement with delegations from countries like Japan, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore, Germany
- Participation of Chief Ministers and key Ministers from North East States
- Participation of Key Union Ministers and top officials of Government of India
- More than 2000 participants from a cross section of the industry in the summits
- Unveiling of SIX crucial FICCI reports with PWC ,KPMG and AT Kearney, Deloitte and Cuts International on North East Connectivity
- Connectivity-led development of Northeast India through BBIN corridor
- Digital Connect-NE-India
- Emerging North East India
- Gateway to the ASEAN – India’s North East Frontier
- Developing Service Sector Linkages in North East
- Harnessing the Potential for Cross- border Trade between North East India and its Neighbouring Countries
SUMMIT 2018 “Connect North East”
Against the above backdrop of some key recommendations of the past Connectivity Summits finding reflection in major Government initiatives, the 5th Edition of North East Connectivity Summit promises to pose and seek answers to some critical questions on Tourism connectivity that may pose itself in the upcoming days. The biggest opportunity and challenge being, people to people connectivity and how to leverage common heritages.
With these questions in the agenda, the 5th edition of the Connectivity Summit is being organized in the picturesque town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Known to be a beautiful Town of Monpas and Monasteries, Arunachal Pradesh is a land of tremendous diversity and potential. It has 16 different tribes and all with its own festivals. It’s a treat for the revellers to witness the zeal and enthusiasm of each of these festivals.
The theme for this year is ‘Tourism Connectivity’.
This is particularly apt because of the Massive Potential of Tourism in North East esp among the eight states and as well as with neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal etc. It is envisaged that North East, due to its unique location, may become the connecting link between India and BBIN and ASEAN. Tourism will undoubtedly be a strong point in this framework of connectivity.
While the focus of the Summit will remain on building connectivity infrastructure esp in the context of promoting Tourism in the region; Connect North East 2018 will have additional flavour of exploring ways on leveraging biodiversity and energy linkages between the region and our neighbouring countries. The deliberations will be moderated to strategize connectivity and infrastructure development for creation of wealth in the area of Social, Economic and Ecological Enterprises.
Key Stakeholders from the North Eastern States along with Corporates from India, neighbouring countries and the ASEAN Region are expected to participate in the Summit. With many new initiatives from Government of India as well as neighbouring countries the summit is expected to deliberate and come up with implementable answers to important questions like:
- Investment in infrastructure requirements for international trade as the ongoing trans-border projects is completed?
- How to bring in more investment for intra-regional connectivity?
- How best can preserve and use our natural resources of the region to bolster sustainable growth?
- How to strengthen people to people connectivity between NE Region and Southeast Asian countries?
- To build consensus on the connectivity needs of the region.
- To evolve a comprehensive connectivity development roadmap for the region.
- Brainstorm financing options for infrastructure development in the North East.
Focus Areas 2018
- Sustainable Tourism
- Infrastructure Interventions across sectors including Tourism
- Riverine Connectivity
- Road Connectivity
- Air Connectivity
- Digital Connectivity
- Developing cross border value chains
- Developing Products and Services for Cross border trade and Commerce
- Building on synergies between financial institutions
- Leveraging People to People Connectivity for inclusive development
- Investment Promotion in Arunachal Pradesh- Tourism, Handloom and Handicrafts, Agro Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals
KEY SESSIONS OF SUMMIT 2018
- Policy Forum: A Roundtable of Policy Makers & Think Tanks
- Inaugural Session
- Theme Session:
Invest in Arunachal Pradesh: Potential Sectors for Investment
- Concurrent Session I:Tourism, Handloom and Handicrafts
- Concurrent Session II: Mountain Futures
- Concurrent Session – I: Sustainable Tourism in North East Region
- Concurrent Session – II: North East India: Hub of Connectivity for ASEAN & South East Asia
- Concurrent Session – III: Developing Sub Regional Business Ecosystem for Cross-border trade and commerce
- Concluding Session
- MOU Exchanges
- “FAM (Familiarisation) tour of Tawang” on 16th November
About the Conference Flow
Connect North East 2018 is designed to be an experiential conference cum retreat rather than a rigidly structured one. The three-day program will begin with a Pre-Summit roundtable followed by an interesting evening of culture.
The first day of the summit would compose of an inaugural session followed by a focused plenary on Tourism Connectivity. The summit would move on to parallel breakaways on various key issues composed of various expert panels, presentations, addresses etc. The valedictory Session would draw upon the deliberations and attempts to formulate the takeaways and map the actionable from the summit.
The Second day of the summit would be FAM (Familiarisation) tours of the delegates would make sure that discussion progress with visual and experiential inputs based on the beautiful landscape of Tawang. The FAM Tours would add to the uniqueness of the Connect North 2018 Summit.