In an effort to unlocking the North-East’s potential by enhancing people-to-people connectivity and nourishing the civilisational linkages on the lines of the government’s ‘Act East Policy’, Manipur has set up its own ‘Act East Policy’. In an exclusive interview with FE, Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh said: “We have taken up the challenge to develop the state. And to reap maximum benefits from the Act East Policy, Manipur has its own policy to materialise this dream.” Being India’s gateway to the Asean region, Manipur shares close affinity with the region in terms of culture, customs and food habits and is well-connected by air, serviced by the Imphal International Airport, the chief minister said.
He, however, pointed out that there is huge untapped potential to develop and expand the air connectivity eastward from Imphal in particular, and the North-East in general, to the Asean region.
The Sikkim government has already approached the ministry of external affairs to introduce visa on arrival facility for foreign nationals, citizens of Myanmar in particular, so that it can enhance medical tourism in the state, the chief minister said. Also, visa on arrival will improve trade and business relations with the Asean countries.
“An official team from the state had accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Myanmar, where visa on arrival was discussed,” said Singh.
To another query related to connectivity, he said there has been a strong emphasis on enhancing India’s road and maritime connectivity with its eastern neighbours. Some of the key projects include the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which connects Moreh in Manipur with Mae Sot in western Thailand through Mandalay in Myanmar, and the Kaladan multi-nodal transport project, which aims to connect Kolkata with Sittwe Port in Myanmar.
Manipur is making all efforts in its earnest to improve the physical connectivity by widening the national highway up to the border town of Moreh in Manipur, he said, while adding that to facilitate trade and commerce, physical infrastructures at Moreh are being enhanced.
Stating that the government of Manipur had opened a multi-storey shopping complex at Moreh to facilitate marketing of various products and produces of Manipur and India through Myanmar, the chief minister informed that other projects at Moreh include construction of guesthouse and opening of border haat, which is under process.
In August, former minister of state for commerce and industries Nirmala Sitharaman had said the construction work of the Asian Trilateral Highway will begin shortly to catalyse the Act East Policy.
The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which would connect Moreh in Manipur with Mae Sot in western Thailand through Mandalay in Myanmar, would certainly boost trade between Manipur and Asean countries, Singh said.
According to him, the new government in the state was working on a plan to transform Manipur into a thriving healthcare and medical tourism hub. “Due to increased medical tourism traffic from Myanmar and other countries in the region, we have begun chalking out plans to transform the state into a healthcare and medical tourism hub of the region, covering northeast India and neighbouring Myanmar.” This assertion comes at a time when patients from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other countries come to the city to be treated at well-equipped hospitals at affordable prices.
“Manipur is well-positioned to cater to other North-Eastern states as well in terms of improved healthcare services,” he added.