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Address by Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh at the Inauguration Ceremony of North-East India Festival

July 30, 2022

H.E. Mr. Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Commerce, Kingdom of Thailand

H.E. Mr. Conrad Sangma, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Meghalaya

H.E. Mr. Neiphiu Rio, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Nagaland

H.E. Mr. Chowna Mein, Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh

Ministers of the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram

Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand, Ms. Suchitra Durai,

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning/Namaskar/ Sawadee Khap,

I am extremely delighted to join you at the inaugural session of the second North-East India Festival being jointly organised by Embassy of India and North-Eastern States of India to connect India’s North-East with Thailand and other South East Asian countries. I would like to thank all of you, particularly DPM Jurin Laksanawisit for sparing your valuable time and attending this special occasion.

2. The first ever North-East India Festival was successfully held in Bangkok in February 2019. It contributed to opening of substantial business opportunities and links between the people and businesses from North-East Indian states and Thailand. I am glad that 2nd edition of the Festival is also being held in Bangkok. I also take this opportunity to congratulate all of us as we are celebrating 75th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Thailand this year. India is also celebrating the 75 years of Independence as Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

3. India and Thailand are maritime neighbours with historical, cultural and spiritual ties dating back to thousands of years. An important dimension of our relationship has been the people-to-people contact. As the land of Lord Buddha, India has a special place in the hearts of the people of Thailand. Thailand, the land of smiles, also has a special place in the hearts of the Indian people. Trade and Tourism exchanges between India and Thailand have played an important role in enhancing mutual understanding of each others culture, history and traditions.

4. India’s Act East policy complemented by Thailand's Act West policy have provided the basis for building a multi-faceted partnership between the two countries. North-East India is the gateway to Thailand and other South East Asian countries. There is renewed thrust on Act East policy by Government of India in recent years with special focus on development and improving connectivity of Northeastern states.

5. The North-East Indian States include eight States of India viz, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. They are rich in natural resources, minerals and forest wealth, exotic fruits and vegetables and unparalleled scenic beauty. The Government of India and the State Governments of these States have taken transformative efforts for holistic development of the region by upgrading infrastructure and connectivity, better healthcare and education facilities and other development initiatives.

6. Economic cooperation between India and Thailand including trade, investment and tourism have continued to flourish during recent years. Thailand is the 4th largest trading destination for India in the ASEAN region. Bilateral trade between India and Thailand has reached to all time high at around USD 15 billion in 2021-22. The Indian market remains attractive for Thai investors, given the vast opportunities available after the recent reforms and initiatives of Government of India. Commerce, Culture and Connectivity define the future focus areas of cooperation between India and Thailand.

7. Government of India in recent years has launched a number of initiatives like Make in India, Skill India, Digital India, Start-up India and Clean India with the focus on fostering innovation, facilitating investment, developing world class infrastructure and skilling Indian youth to make India a manufacturing hub for the World. The Prime Minister of India launched ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ or ‘Self-reliant India’ initiative in May 2020 which includes a number of measures and incentives for trade and investment focused growth and opening up India as an investment destination to make India self-reliant and contribute to the global economy. Currently, India is 3rd biggest Start-up Hub in the World.

8. India provides huge opportunities for investment in infrastructure including roads, ports, power sector, food processing, renewable energy, digital technology, logistics, and electric vehicles. I am glad to see that collaboration between the businesses of the two countries continue to flourish over the years and businesses from both sides can enter into long-term partnerships for more diverse and resilient supply chains.

9. Connectivity with ASEAN in all its dimensions – physical, institutional and people-to-people – continues to be a strategic priority for us. The North-Eastern region of India is now getting ready to take lead and be a preferred destination for investment, trade and tourism for South-East Asian countries. "India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway” from Moreh in Manipur to Maesot in Thailand, will be a milestone in our connectivity with Thailand, and further connect India’s North-East to other ASEAN countries. This road as well as other initiatives such as Kaladan Multi Modal point etc. will open up the North East to ASEAN countries.

10. Air connectivity between India and Thailand has been excellent with around 300 flights per week during pre-Covid-19 reflecting a rapidly growing traffic of tourist and business persons between the two countries. The North East region currently have 2 international airports – one at Guwahati and the other at Imphal. A new terminal building at Agartala Airport has been built as an integrated terminal to meet future international flight requirements. The UDAN scheme of the Government of India has resulted in the development of 15 operational airports. Rail and road connectivity have also improved. With India’s first Multi Modal Logistics Park at Assam’s Jogighopa, the region has good scope to become a hub for intermodal freight-handling facilities, equipped with cutting-edge machinery. We hope that Indian and Thai airlines reestablish direct air connectivity between Thailand and North East India.

11. I note that Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy is aimed at driving the economic and social development by integration of bioeconomy, circular economy and green economy. It is also compatible with and complementary to India’s priorities. India has also emerged as a major green energy hub with one of the most ambitious solar energy production capacities in the world. There is good scope for enhancing bilateral trade and investment partnership in targeted areas. Several leading Thai companies have already invested in India with GRSC, a PTT Group’s subsidiary making one of the largest ever investments in India in renewable energy sector in recent years. I would also congratulate the Indian companies present in Thailand as well as the Thai companies present in India for your success story. We would welcome the business community of Thailand to explore Indian market for greater trade and investment linkages with particular emphasis on North-eastern states.

12. As regards to the cultural connect, both North-East India and Thailand share an intrinsic connection that dates back to millenia. There are many common physical features in art and dance forms, social structure, eating habits, weaving motifs, and cultural practices. Indian mythology and folklore finds reflection here. The Thai epic, Ramakien is based on the Ramayana. The Ahoms, the Khamtis and the Khasi people of India have links with Thai people. The greatest mirror reflection in terms of culture is the celebration of festivals. The festival of Bohag Bihu in Assam, Songkran in Thailand and Sangkem in Arunachal Pradesh mark the beginning of a New Year and hold similar importance.

13. I congratulate the State Governments of all North-Eastern States and Embassy of India for organizing such a grand festival and take this opportunity to thank the members of various delegations that have come all the way from North-Eastern States of India to participate in the Festival. I also convey my sincere thanks to Mr. Shyamkanu Mahanta and Trend MMS for their relentless efforts towards organisation of this Festival. I hope that the people of Thailand will enjoy participating in the Festival which also includes cultural performances, art & handicraft exhibition and cuisine of North east India.

Thank you.
Kob Khun Khrap

July 30, 2022

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