Monday, 22 September 2008

Bhutan : The North East nexus ‘twixt SAARC and ASEAN

22 September, 2008 - Bhutan and Assam could explore their vast potential in the field of trade and commerce, according to the Bhutanese Ambassador to India, former minister, Lyonpo Dago Tshering.

The ambassador, speaking at the 4th North East Business Summit, which concluded on September 16, said the north-eastern states of India and Bhutan share many areas of common interest in which both could cooperate, like in the field of tourism, energy, agro food processing and handloom and cottage industry products.

“We’re glad that the government of India, the state governments of the North East and Indian business and industry are placing major emphasis on the development of the region,” he said.

“The people of the region, working together for a prosperous future, could create an environment of peace, security and progress in the region. Promoting good relations with the neighbouring states of India is a priority policy of our government.”

The two-day high-level summit showcased the potential of the NE States to promote private sector investments. The summit focused on sectors such as tourism, food processing, power, infrastructure, information technology, handloom and cottage industries, especially in the context of the “Look East Policy” on trade and investment linkages between ASEAN and SAARC countries.

A special session on “North East on Fast Track - Building International Partnership” with special reference to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines to discuss mutual cooperation was the main attraction of the summit.

Bhutan shares borders with Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Sikkim. But, according to Ambassador Dago Tshering, it was the people who shared close cultural and social affinities, that linked the North East sister states closer to Bhutan.

“We appreciate the state government of Assam for the cooperation in improving road connectivity from Pathshala to Nganglam for the construction of the Dungsum Cement Project in Bhutan,” said Dago Tshering. “The beneficiaries will be the local people of Assam in Pathshala as most of the work force would be from the vicinity.”

The Ambassador informed the summit that Bhutan was drafting an economic policy and reviewing its Foreign Direct Investment policy in order to make it more investor-friendly, particularly for those from India. “We hope to encourage investments in information technology, medical tourism, high end educational facilities, organic agro products, herbal medicine and high end tourist resorts,” he said.

“There is much opportunity ahead to work together. ”

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