Here’s the entire texts of Manipur Chief Minister N.Biren Singh’s speech at the Asean – India Partnership Event held at Vientiane, Loas on August 7, 2017.
H.E………. Dignitaries, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here today, to be a part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the ASEAN – India Partnership, jointly organized by AIBC, Lao Chapter and Indian Embassy Lao and supported by Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
2. I would also like to share how grateful I am, for the warm welcome and kind hospitality, the people of Lao has extended during my short visit to this beautiful country. I believe it is reflective of the long, friendly and mutually supportive relationship, India shares with Lao People’s Democratic Republic based upon deep historical and civilizational foundations.
3. 2017 is a landmark year for both ASEAN and ASEAN-India partnership. While ASEAN celebrates 50 years of its existence, we celebrate 25 years of our Partnership with ASEAN.
4. In the last 25 years, ties between India and ASEAN have grown by leaps and bounds, since the introduction of the Look East Policy in the 1990s. We have accomplished substantial progress in politico-security, economic and socio-cultural areas. The renaming of the “Look East Policy” as “Act East Policy” by the current Government in India is reflective of its commitment to deepen its ties with the region.
5. India’s initiative would complement ASEAN’s community building efforts and help realize the vision of shared prosperity and progress of the ASEAN region and India. It was towards achieving this end that the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity, which sets out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement, was signed here in Vientiane, Lao PDR at the 3rd ASEAN-India Summit on 30 November 2004.
6. To unlock the latent potentials and untapped opportunities in the region, it is important to ensure that physical and social infrastructures are robust. Physical connectivity through air, land and sea is vital to facilitate enduring partnership and collaboration.
7. There has been a strong emphasis on enhancing India’s road and maritime connectivity with its eastern neighbors. Some of the key projects include the India – Myanmar – Thailand trilateral highway, which connects Moreh in my state of Manipur in India with Mae Sot in western Thailand through Mandalay in Myanmar, and the Kaladan multi-nodal transport project, which aims to connect Kolkata, India with Sittwe Port in Myanmar. Though the deadline for the completion of the connectivity project has been extended from 2016 to 2019, I am confident given the renewed focus and commitment, the major connectivity projects will be completed in its right earnest. It is also exciting to know that there are plans for extending the IMT highway further to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The focus and commitment shown towards developing the north eastern region as a pivot of the Act East Policy reflects in the increased trade between India and Myanmar, through the Indian northeast, which has witnessed an upswing from Rs. 775 million ($12 million) in 2013-2014 to Rs. 1.445 billion ($22 million) in 2015-16.
8. In terms of Land Connectivity, Manipur State is the gateway for India to the ASEAN region. Similar to Laos, Manipur is also geographically a mountainous state and is also landlocked. Manipur is well connected by air, serviced by the Imphal International Airport. However, currently all flights out of Imphal Airport is westward bound. Over the years, number of outbound and inbound tourist from and to the State have significantly increased. In addition, Manipur shares close affinity in terms of culture, customs and food habits with the ASEAN region. I therefore, see a huge untapped potential to develop and expand the air connectivity eastward from Imphal in particular and the north east region of India in general to the ASEAN region.
9. The Government of Manipur is making all efforts in its earnest to improve the physical connectivity by widening the National Highway up to the border town of Moreh in Manipur. To facilitate trade and commerce, physical infrastructures at Moreh are being enhanced. The Government of Manipur has taken up the establishment of a Multi-Storied Shopping Complex at Moreh to facilitate marketing of various products and produces of Manipur and India through Myanmar. Other projects at Moreh include construction of Guest house and Opening of Border Haat, which is under process. There are also plans to extend the railway line to the border town.
10. Nature has provided Laos with rich forests and water resources. I am proud to share that Manipur is also fortunate to be blessed with diverse flora and fauna. The North East Region is rich in horticultural products, plantation crops, vegetables, spices, rare herbs, and medicinal plants. It offers unlimited tourism opportunities, rare flora and fauna, natural scenic beauty, performing arts, cuisine and handicrafts.
11. The “Sangai” which is an endemic and endangered subspecies of brow-antlered deer is found only in Manipur. It is also the state animal of Manipur. Every year “The Sangai Festival” is celebrated in Manipur in the last week of November. Similarly, we have stated celebrating “The Shirui Festival” from this year onwards to celebrate the beauty of the State Flower – “Shirui Lily”. I am also delighted to share with you that the National Flower of Lao, “The Dok Champa”, which we call “Khage-Leihou” in Manipuri, is integral to the customary and religious functions of the people of Manipur. Given such similarities, I am sure we can explore opportunities to partner and share our rich culture and traditions as part of the Tourism Festival in our State to bring closer the people of Lao and the State of Manipur and the region.
12. The demographics of our two countries are largely young. For enduring peace and sustainable development, it is necessary that the youth are part of the developmental discourse to address the concerns about sustainability etc. As part of the initiative to cater to the aspiration of the youth of the region, we need to encourage greater participation of the youth by exploring mechanism to facilitate exchanges in areas of culture, sports, traditional arts and education.
13. The benefits, possibilities and implications of The Act East policy, are many, from employment generation through logistical and infrastructural expansions, improved livelihood, flourishing trade and commerce, thriving tourism sector, greater prosperity and peace. At the same time to ensure that progress is sustainable, developmental gains are lasting and peace is enduring, active participation and collaboration of the stakeholders, communities and the local and National governments would be necessary. Especially at a time when the global community is witnessing increased trade protectionism, nationalism, lack of strategic stability and increasing intolerance, challenging our progressive international order.
14. In conclusion, the celebration reflects and reaffirms the friendly relations and mutual trust of the countries and the firm commitment of partners towards achieving greater prosperity of the region and its people. A lot has been achieved in the last 25 years. I look forward to a future which will unlock the full potential of the region and its people by enhancing people-to-people connectivity and nourishing the civilizational linkages within the region.