Imphal, Nov 21 (PTI) Air, road and inland water connectivity among Northeastern states with that of the mainland part of the country occupied the centre stage at the two-day North East Development Summit inaugurated today.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the summit which seeks to promote tourism and commerce in the region among others, delegates acknowledged that the Northeastern states being a landlocked region, connectivity in all form is eminent for bringing the states closer to the mainland as well as to improve the economy of the region.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who is on his first visit to the state after assuming office, said, “In the past three years, railway lines have finally come to Arunachal Pradesh fulfilling an old demand and that extensive projects amounting to Rs 90,000 crore are underway to develop rail lines in the region.”

He maintained that the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC), which was incorporated in July 2014, was working with special focus on developing the landlocked region.

President Kovind highlighted that the inland waterways along the Brahmaputra in Assam and the Barak river will also facilitate further penetration to previously inaccessible areas.

In the border neighbourhood such as the India-Myanmar- Thailand Trilateral highway, multi-purpose transport project are critical for the region and the country, Kovind said.

Meanwhile, Jayant Sinha, Minister of State of Civil Aviation and Tourism said, “Highest priority is being given on civil aviation sector so as to connect the Northeast region not only with the mainland but also with the rest of the world.”

He remarked ever since the BJP government came to power, in the last few years, air traffic have actually doubled going from 100 million passengers to 200 million passengers.

He said they have gone from 75 operational airports to 100 operational airports in the region and have succeeded in connecting many cities including Silchar and Dibrugarh.

Providing an insight that some 30 to 40 flights a day at the Guwahati airport have increased to 90 flights a day, Sinha remarked that shortly a new terminal will be developed to expand the existing the Guwahati airport.

He also said that “construction of the Pakyong airport in Sikkim is virtually complete” and will be tremendous boost to places in Sikkim.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, on his part, said “the central government has given a huge effort in developing the infrastructure” in the region with “new highways having been declared and constructed and existing highways have been widened”.

Dredging of the Brahmaputra and other rivers have commenced to improve the cargo and trade transit between Northeastern states and neighbouring countries.

He also echoed that connectivity will provide economic prosperity for the country and not just Northeast region, Sonowal said.

To export goods and services to other neighbouring countries to Bangladesh and Myanmar via railway connectivity with Kolkata and South East Asia respectively, reaching upto the Chittagong port will prove tremendous for the nation.

Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang too emphasised that the “Centre should indulge in improving air and road connectivity” adding insurgency problems, geographical remoteness and feeling of alienation has made the region backward compared to mainland states.

He urged for a “right policy” for promoting investment in the region as the region serves as a gateway to the South East Asian Nations.

The Act East Policy has not only great potential to strengthen the economy in the region but also transform by opening doors for Indian goods to Asian economy thereby leading to creation of unemployment opportunities.

He further cited better emphasis of connecting the ASEAN nations with that of the Northeast region from the Northeast states rather than from mainland states as it will save several hours in air transportation.

The summit was jointly organised by the Government of India, Manipur government and the India Foundation.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.