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India and Japan collaboration can enhance NE India's trade and economy: Envoy

Japan's Ambassador in India Suzuki Satoshi on Thursday has said that the comprehensive collaboration between India and Japan would provide the landlocked northeast region with access to the Bay of Bengal as well as access to ASEAN countries leading to the socio-economic growth of the region.

Addressing at the second India-Japan virtual dialogue on the theme "Development of India's North Eastern Region and Neighbourhood: India-Japan Collaboration for Fostering Entrepreneurship and People Connectivity", organised by Indian think tank "Asian Confluence" in collaboration with the Japanese Embassy, he said that the Bay of Bengal and ASEAN countries played a key role in unleashing enormous potential of growth and prosperity of the northeast region, based on better access to the Indian Ocean and that is crucial for the improvement of people's lives.

In the area of agri-business, upgrading the quality of original and unique products of northeast India and how to work together for developing skills pertaining to agri-business, can be explored, Satoshi said.

In her address, Joint Secretary, External Affairs Ministry, Smita Pant highlighted all the initiatives based on the hard infrastructure connectivity initiatives which have already made progress.

With abundant produce and strategic locational advantage, the northeastern region can be a major player in India's international trade with neighbours, particularly in the area of agriculture trade, she added.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has sponsored 15 projects currently being executed in the eight northeastern states at a cost of $2,143 million, and these include forest management, biodiversity conservation, northeast road network, Guwahati water supply and sewage projects, capacity enhancement for sustainable agriculture and irrigation development and construction of educational institutions.

Experts in their deliberations dealt with challenges on how to attract Japanese companies to the NE region, market linkages, developing skilled human resources and ensuring security.

As Bangladesh graduates from Least Developed Country status and more interest is being generated in Japanese companies on doing business in the country, connectivity and joint projects between northeastern India and Bangladesh with Japanese collaboration can be a unique selling point, the experts pointed out.

Asian Confluence's Governing Council Member and former Chairman of Asian Development Bank, Rajat Nag emphasised on the specific product ideas such as buckwheat, bamboo, spices, shitake mushroom, medicinal plants, skill development, language training courses, matching with educational institutions.

Meghalaya Farmers' Commission Chairman K.N. Kumar spoke on specific initiatives on buckwheat in Meghalaya while bamboo resource expert Kamesh Salam spoke on related projects.

Asian Confluence's Executive Director Sabyasachi Dutta said that the dialogue was held not only to highlight and promote further narratives of cooperation but also matchmaking to forge concrete collaborations on specific products by connecting entrepreneurs and opinion leaders from Japan, India, and Bangladesh.

The other expert and diplomatic participants include Deputy Chief of Mission, Japanese Embassy Kunihiko Kawazu, JICA India's Chief Representative Mitsunori Saito, Assam's Principal Secretary, Trade and Act East Policy Affairs, Dr. K.K. Dwivedi, East West University, Dhaka, Professor A.K. Enamul Haque, IIT Guwahati's Director Dr. T.G. Sitharam.

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