Huge investment potential of luring foreign investors | When will Arunachal Pradesh benefit?

Beyond the Horizon

By Pradeep Kumar

“In 1950, Assam (which included Arunachal Pradesh), NE’s largest state, was more than 4% richer than the rest of India. Isolated and often ignored, by 1999 it was more than 45% poorer, with the gap steadily widening, “as per the United Nations report.

The NE Region (NER), consisting of eight states (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim) spread in 2.62 lakh sqkm area, 7.9% of India’s total geographical area, with its unique identity due to peculiar physical, economic and socio-cultural characteristics of its over 45 million population, which is 3.76 % of India’s population.

But, this NER, linked by 22-km geo-political and geo-economical Siliguri Corridor or Chicken’s Neck with mainland India and with Eastern South Asia, remained under developed due to prolonged negligence by consecutive central Govts despite their respective five year and annual plans besides Union Ministries and central agencies.

Thus, the NE states remain dependent on central funding for various developments for which they were categorized as special category states for various inherent problems which delay execution of projects

Look East policy (LEP), initiated in 1991 as an effort for extensive economic and strategic relations with the Southeast Asia nations to bolster NER as a regional power, and was also to counterweight strategic influence of China. It had marked a strategic shift in India’s perspective of the world. Enacted by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao Narasimha Rao (INC, 1991–1996), it was rigorously pursued by successive Govts of Atal Bihari Vajpayee (BJP, 1998–2004) and Manmohan Singh (INC, 2004-2014).

Interestingly, the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, in his public address at Itanagar in 2003 and 2007, had said: “Delhi had decided not to develop Arunachal after the 1962 Chinese aggression, fearing it could benefit the neighbour. It was a “historical blunder”. But, “Arunachal Delhi se door hey, par dil se nahin” – his remarks was, contradictory as the NDA ruled for six years (1998-2004) but failed to take any tangible steps to reverse the process.

Considering urgent need for their speedy development, the Centre had evolved Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) scheme in 1998 under Planning Commission, which was subsequently transferred to DoNER Ministry in 2001. This was a unique scheme as funds of any union ministry remaining unspent would be diverted to the NLCPR.

The success of LEP enthused South-Block mandarins to develop it into more action oriented, project and outcome based policy.  After a couple of decades, the LEP was replaced by Act-East Policy by BJP PM Narendra Modi in 2014.

In March 2010, Canada, New Zealand, USA and UK tea growers during visit to Abali Organic Tea Garden (AOTG) in Lower Dibang Valley district, Canadian organic expert Kel Kelly had advocated growing of organic tea in the wild without destroying the forests to create a sustainable source of livelihood.

On 17.05.12, the European Union, representing 27 nations and having very close ties with India, is playing a pivotal role in various fields in global interest, particularly in mitigating the dangerous impacts of climate change, said Joao Cravinho, who is heading the eight-member EU ambassadorial delegation (in pic), on its maiden State tour.  They were interacting with Arunachal Pradesh lawmakers, including Leader of the Opposition (AITC) LaetaUmbrey, Dr Tangor Tapak (BJP), Parliamentary Secretaries PD Sona (Tourism), JK Panggeng (Law), Phosum Khimhun (Trade & Commerce), Alo Libang (NCP), Bamang Felix (NCP) and Tapak Taku (AITC) in State Assembly.

When Sona dwelt on the State’s huge untapped tourism potential, Cravinho said the GoAP should be more pragmatic and let the EU nations know more about the state through the GoI.

Umbrey sought the EU’s help for speedy reopening of the historic Stillwell Road that links Assam’s Ledo with Kunming in China, as it could be the bridge between the underdeveloped North East region and the rich South East Asian nations. Border trade with China may not be possible due to the Indo-China border controversy, Umbrey said to drive home his view. He advocated updating all official websites of Arunachal with correct information.

Highlighting the huge agri-horti potentials of Upper Siang district bordering China, whose huge   produces are allowed to rot for want of forward-backward market linkage, Panggeng said the ignorant locals there are still living in a primitive age. Their awareness and skill development is a must for socioeconomic development, he argued and urged the EU to help by opening an office in the state.

The team while interacting with Arunachal Chamber of Commerce & Industries members led by president Techi Lala on 17.05.12 had sought to know the trade potentials and the challenges confronting Arunachal Pradesh. ACCI chief adviser Pradeep Kumar informed about the State’s orange bowl Wakro (in Lohit district) whose products are being exported to Bangladesh, benefiting the garden owners by Rs 8 to Rs 10 per year; the Arunachalee banana wine, termed as ‘Queen of Wines’ by French tourists at the Shillong wine festival; and the renovated Arunachal portion of the Stillwell Road up to Pangsau Pass along the Indo-Myanmar border.

ACCI GS Tarh Nachung said Arunachal is the only Indian state where the people are empowered by the Constitution to develop along the lines of their own genius, reflecting the bottom-up development policy, a principle adopted recently by the Planning Commission. He urged them to go back as friends of the ever smiling Arunachalees to propagate the uniqueness of the State and its people.

Though Arunachal is yet to be in India’s economic map due to numerous factors, the state’s leadership is committed to transform it into a knowledge-based economy within the framework of a secular and liberal democracy, Wanglin Lowangdong had said. Hinting at the huge coal and crude oil deposits in Changlang’s Kharsang and Namchik, besides focused sectors of hydropower, floriculture, horticulture and tourism, he had said the process could be accentuated through access to knowledge economy and technology. He called for partnership by technology transfer to ensure the prosperity of the masses through bilateral ties. The team had also visited Ziro and Rajiv Gandhi University.

On 23.07.12, South Korea’s DASAN DS director executive SangWooPark and executive director Hwan Jin Chung along with New Delhi-based Arunodaya Energy & Infrastructure Pvt Ltd have arrived at the state capital at the invitation of lawmaker Tani Loffa and former MP Kiren Rijiju to explore investment opportunities.

While interacting with this editor today, the trio recalled that after hearing a lot about this Himalayan state they finalized their trip which is aimed at exploring investment opportunities in mutual interest.

After then CM Dorjee Khnadu’s trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam during February 12-14,  2009 to project investment potentials of the state, then CM  Nabam Tuki Tuki, leading a high-power delegation and armed with ‘Venture Arunachal’ to project all viable and promising sectors, had gone on ‘Mission Canada’ in March 2012 last. He had met hundreds of business honchos and corporate chiefs led by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, besides meeting members of the US-India Business Council at New York to seek investment in tourism, hydropower and food processing sectors.

On ‘Mission Dhaka’ in June 2012, CM Tuki had projected the investment opportunities, particularly in tourism, forestry, hydropower and agri-horticulture sectors.

A high level team of European Union diplomats toured the state in May last to explore business scope, and left with indelible impression after a meeting with the CM, with many of them promising to return soon with concrete proposals to clinch deals.

Assam by its two-day ‘Global Investment Summit- Advantage Assam India’s Expressway to ASEAN’, inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi at Guwahati on 03.02.18 and attended by 213 representatives from 23 foreign countries including PM and Economic Affairs Minister of the Royal Bhutanese Govt, Cambodia Tourism Minister, Bangladesh Industries Minister and Myanmar Commerce Minister, has taken forward march.

Though huge investment potential of Arunachal Pradesh has been luring foreign investors and state chief ministers touring abroad to invite them.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu in his address during statehood day celebration on 20.02.20, in presence of PM Modi, had said that “Arunachal Pradesh has a lot of potential, but due to objections by the neighbouring country, foreign investment is not making it to the state and making it difficult to tap the resources. I hope, with your intervention, the issue will be resolved so we can convert our potential into capital.” He had said, in a thinly veiled reference to China’s objections to foreign investment in the state.

Arunachal Pradesh is located close to South East Asia and reopening of historic Stillwell road (Ledo-Kunming) would make Arunachal as a gateway to those rich nations. But, when this state would benefit is a million dollar question?

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