Japan is keen to get involved in more initiatives, including ‘viable connectivity projects’ in the North-East in states such as Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur, to boost trade between the two sides. Improving the road network is a priority to ensure that local residents have a lifeline and for economic development. A highly placed source told FE: “The plan is to improve connectivity between Asia and Africa through the Dawei SEZ – developed jointly by Japan, Thailand and Myanmar — using the free and open Indian-Pacific Ocean region. The North-East’s direct connectivity with the SEZ would also mean enhanced economic activity in the region.”
While the ‘Look East policy’ under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been attracting investors from Asean member countries, Japanese investments in NE, especially in infrastructure, will help facilitate India’s policy.
Japan is also in talks with the government for securing infrastructure projects such as development of smart cities in other North-Eastern states. “Connectivity is the main pillar of relationship with India,” a source said.
Though NE is landlocked , the possibility of Bangladesh opening its Chittagong port is bright, given their improved relations with India. India is also developing the Sittwe port in Myanmar and has also entered into a framework agreement with Myanmar in April 2008 to facilitate the implementation of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project.
Another source said: “We are working on projects in the North-East with the help from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the improvement of the infrastructure, including roads in Meghalaya and Mizoram. Preparatory research for the roads project in Meghalaya has already been completed.”
In March this year, JICA signed loan agreements with the government in New Delhi to provide Japanese ODA loans of up to a total of 308.762 billion yen for eight projects. The North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project (Phase 1) for national highways 51 & 54, which is adjacent to Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan. These improvements will boost the level of connectivity between the target region and other areas inside and outside of India, thereby contributing to economic development in the region.
A project in Nagaland is to be undertaken to help restore forests in the lands under shifting cultivation in Nagaland, and provide livelihood means other than shifting cultivation for local residents to contribute to sustainable forest environment conservation and improved livelihood of local residents.
Earlier this year, in Imphal, Manipur, Japan’s ambassador
to India, Kenji Hiramatsu had said his country was willing to help India develop infrastructure in the NE.