'Neighbourhood First and Act East are two fundamental pillars of India's foreign policy, boosting regional connectivity'

Neighbourhood First and Act East are two fundamental pillars of India's foreign policy, and lines of communication being through Northeast India will boost trade and energy links with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan in South Asia, and further to ASEAN countries and East Asia, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla has said

Nov 25, 2021
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India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla

Neighbourhood First and Act East are two fundamental pillars of India's foreign policy, and lines of communication being through Northeast India will boost trade and energy links with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan in South Asia, and further to ASEAN countries and East Asia, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla has said.  

In a major policy sweep at the ‘Bharat@75: Empowering India: Today for Tomorrow’ at the Annual General Meeting and Annual Session of The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Kolkata Wednesday, he said that New Delhi’s approach to improving global public good is evident in its approach to its neighbourhood where it has made an enormous effort to improve connectivity in the region.

Neighbourhood First and Act East - these two pillars literally intersect in this part of our country. India is linked to Southeast Asia by land through this region. It is linked by the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific, Shringla was quoted by UNI news agency as saying. 

He said Kolkata, “its location, its port and its hinterland have made it a global city. Today, these very characteristics place it on newer crossroads.”

He said that lines of communication are being created through Northeast India to South and South-East Asia, and referred to the Kaladan multi-modal transport project, which pivots on Sittwe port in Myanmar, and the Trilateral Highway project, as two notable examples.  He said that the ASEAN countries are central to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

He said five of the six rail links that connected Bangladesh and India before 1965 have been reactivated and more are being built.

“Indian is now connected to Nepal through the Jayanagar- Kurtha railway line. A Raxaul Kathmandu railway is on the anvil.”

He said people can today travel to Dhaka directly by bus, train and air. They can travel to Agartala via Bangladesh by bus. They can ship goods to Agartala multi-modally through Ashuganj and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

“Future plans to enhance connectivity include extending the Trilateral Highway to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Railways that link India and Myanmar and further to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh are all in the realm of possibility.”

He said a network of land ports and integrated check posts are being built along our land borders to upgrade the cargo transhipment and passenger transit experience.

“These will create new transport corridors that will facilitate rapid transport of goods and people between different nations in the region and different parts of India.”

Shringla said a common energy market is being created, and gave the example of the Indian grid being connected to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

“These allow India to supply 1160 MW of power to Bangladesh, about 700 MW to Nepal, and import 1.8 GW from Bhutan. Trans-national movement of electricity in the neighbourhood is thus a reality. Procedures for export and import of electricity with our neighbouring countries have also been notified,” he added.

“Hydrocarbon pipelines are being created to link India with Nepal and Bangladesh.”

India is a country with global interests and takes its commitments to be a responsible international player with the utmost seriousness, Shringla said on Wednesday.

“We have also commissioned a study by the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation that will "map” connectivity projects in the North-Eastern India and Indian supported connectivity projects in countries neighbouring this region. The idea is to identify synergies and possible growth corridors,” he added.

“An ambitious target of USD 400 billion of exports has been set up for the year 2021-22. The business of Indian diplomacy is, thus, business,” he said, and added that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stands ready to help Indian businesses in any way they can (SAM)