Chief Minister Shri N. Biren Singh said that Manipur shares close affinity in terms of culture, customs and food habits with the ASEAN region.

He was addressing the 25th anniversary celebration conference of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership at Vientiane (Lao PDR) today.

The celebration was jointly organised by ASEAN India Business Council (AIBC), Lao PDR Chapter, Indian Embassy, Lao PDR and Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said that renaming of the ‘Look East Policy’ as ‘Act East Policy’ by the current Government in India is reflective of its commitment to deepen its ties with ASEAN countries.

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, India with Sittwe Port in Myanmar, Shri N. Biren said.

Stating that it is exciting to know that there are plans for extending the IMT highway further to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the Chief Minister said that the focus and commitment shown towards developing the North Eastern region as a pivot of the Act East Policy reflects in the increased trade between India and Myanmar.

Shri N. Biren informed that the India’s North East had witnessed a trade upswing from Rs. 775 million ($12 million) in 2013-2014 to Rs. 1.445 billion ($22 million) in 2015-16.

In terms of land connectivity, Shri N. Biren said, Manipur is the gateway for India to the ASEAN region. On the other hand, Manipur is well connected by air, serviced by the Imphal International Airport, he added.

The Chief Minister pointed out that there are huge untapped potentials to develop and expand the air connectivity eastward from Imphal in particular and the North East region of India in general to the ASEAN region.

The Government of 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-storeyed 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 guest house and opening of border Haat, which is under process. There are also plans to extend the railway line to the border town, he added.

Shri N. Biren further said that the North East region is rich in horticultural products, plantation crops, vegetables, spices, rare herbs, and medicinal plants. It offers unlimited tourism opportunities, rare flora and fauna, natural scenic beauty, performing arts, cuisine and handicrafts, he added.

Sangai, which is an endangered sub-species of brow-antlered deer, is found only in Manipur. It is also the State animal of Manipur, he added. The Manipur Sangai Festival is celebrated in the State of Manipur in the last week of November, Shri N. Biren said.

Similarly, the State had also stated celebrating Shirui Festival from this year onwards to celebrate the beauty of the State flower – Shirui Lily, the Chief Minister said.

The National flower of Lao, ‘Dok Champa’ is known as ‘Khagi-Leihao’ in Manipuri, and it is integral to the customary and religious functions of the people of Manipur.

Given such similarities, Manipur and Lao can explore opportunities to partner and share the rich culture and traditions as part of the tourism festivals in Manipur to bring closer the people of Lao and the State of Manipur and the region, he added.

The demographics of the two countries are largely young. For enduring peace and sustainable development, it is necessary that the youth are part of the developmental discourse to address the concerns about sustainability etc, the Chief Minister said.

As part of the initiative to cater to the aspiration of the youth of the region, the two countries need to encourage greater participation of the youth by exploring mechanism to facilitate exchanges in areas of culture, sports, traditional arts and education, he added.

The Chief Minister is accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary (Tourism) Dr. S. Ranjan, Parliamentary Secretary (Home) Shri L. Susindro, Advisor to CM Shri Rajat Sethi and Personal Secretary to CM Shri S. Rajen during his visit to the ASEAN country.

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