India think tanks discuss boosting of trade with BD
SHILLONG, May 14: A national conference on the theme, "Act East Policy, Regional Economic Integration and Development of the North Eastern Region of India" was organised by the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) North Eastern Regional Centre (NERC) on Friday.
The conference was organised in collaboration with the Association of Asia Scholars (AAS), Delhi.
In his introductory address, Prof Bhagirathi Panda, Honorary Director of ICSSR-NERC, said that in the Northeastern states development was largely outsourced to rent seekers.
"Prior to the partition of the country, industrialisation bypassed the region and post-partition and following India's independence only the services sector was developed but that too was not high-end. It was a low-end services sector where women entering the labour market were casualised when compared to other parts of the country," he said.
Prof Panda lamented that the GDP too was not growing at the desired pace and that money which came in from Delhi tended to encourage the rent-seeking behaviour that has entrapped the economy. The Act East Policy needs to look at a macro-development strategy with carefully crafted sub-strategies to give a boost to the industrial sector, he observed.
A special address by the Guest of Honour, Dr Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur, Deputy High Commissioner, Bangladesh, highlighted the robust trade possibilities between Bangladesh and India especially in the area of tourism since the people of Bangladesh are enamoured by the hills and clouds of Meghalaya.
Pointing out that the Indo-Bangladesh trade in 2019-2020 was to the tune of USD 9.5 billion Dr Monsur however stated that the trade gap was heavily in favour of India. Dr Monsur also said that Chittagong port was now open to be used by traders from the Northeast barring tea export.
"It is important to identify joint value chains and to sensitise people at the ground level such as local customs and immigration officials to ensure speedier border transactions," he said, adding that a website registering Indo-Bangla traders and product details is also already in place.
In his keynote address, Prof Swaran Singh, School of International Studies, JNU and President AAS, New Delhi spoke about the pull and push that drive trade and commerce. He pointed out to the different alignments such as the BCIM, BIMSTEC, which were all designed to establish economic co-operation.
"In the 1990s, ASEAN comprised five countries only but now encompasses ten nations. India needs to remind itself that it shares the longest border with Bangladesh and therefore pay more attention to this fact," Prof Singh opined.
Paper presenters included Prof Sukhpal Singh of IIM Ahmedabad who spoke on agriculture and agribusiness in the East, South East Asia and Northeast India, Prof Lakhwinder Singh of Punjab University, Prof Prasenjit Biswas, NEHU and Prof Sangeeta Thapliyal, among others.
Retired VC, Sikkim University, Prof TB Subba gave the valedictory address with a poser - "Have all our deliberations ever met with policy changes or policy corrections? Have our writings made any impact on policies or impacted our lives directly? Whatever it is we have to be critical of government policies to the extent our capacities allow us. The Look East Policy now evolved into the Act East Policy was started without adequate preparation, akin to building a wall without ensuring that the bricks, sands and cement are of the best quality. As of today most of the infrastructure started is incomplete. Let's not forget that a lot of taxpayers' money has been invested in this initiative."
The ICSSR-NERC will try and compile the gist of the deliberations to ensure it reaches the concerned departments of Government of India and becomes a policy input.
-The Shillong Times