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PM for making North-East as bridge to SE Asia

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The Prime Minister, Mr A.B. Vajpayee, with Chief Ministers of North-Eastern States and the Hindustan Lever Chairman, Mr M.S. Banga (extreme left), at the second North-East Business Summit in the Capital on Tuesday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , Jan. 20

THE North-Eastern region could become an economic bridge-head for trade with South-East Asian countries by using its locational advantage, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said on Tuesday. "India is working actively to promote regional and sub-regional trade and economic promotion. Our North-Eastern states can become our economic bridgehead to South-East Asia," Mr Vajpayee said at the second North-East Business Summit, organised by the Department of N-E Region and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

But the states have to take initiative to take advantage of the possibility of trade with South-East Asian markets such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, Mr Vajpayee said.

The Centre, on its part, was committed to providing more resources to the region, he added.

"The Centre has taken a conscious decision to provide more resources and incentives for development of the North-East. It is the responsibility of the individual states to demonstrate visibly that funds are used properly. People in the North-East would like to see the outcome of the utilisation of funds on the ground," the Prime Minister said.

To ensure development of the region, the East-West corridor of the ongoing National Highway Development Project (NHDP) had been extended to Silchar and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had announced another scheme to link all state capitals, including those in the region, with four-lane highways to the NHDP, he pointed out.

The Government would soon commence work on the 2000-MW Subansiri hydro-electric project in Arunachal Pradesh costing over Rs 6,000 crore and the 130-MW Teesta Lower Dam Station III project in Sikkim at a cost of Rs 800 crore to harness the untapped hydel power potential in the region, Mr Vajpayee said.

He said that between 1998-99 and 2002-03, the Government has released over Rs 44,000 crore of Central resources for North-Eastern states, which includes Rs 5,700 crore under the Prime Minister's package.

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