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Assam keen to start flights to ASEAN countries: CM Sarbananda Sonowal

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Assam is in discussion with the Centre to start flight services to ASEAN countries, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said today.

"We are keen to start flights to ASEAN countries and we also request these countries to do the same to the region," Sonowal said at a plenary session on North East India and ties with ASEAN and BBN countries, at the Global Investors Summit here.

"There is scepticism from some quarters that it will not be viable in the short-run, but we are sure it will be in the long-run and transform the economy of the region," he said.

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He also urged ASEAN countries to set up consulates in Guwahati, which besides boosting economic ties, will also help in promoting cultural relations.

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The Centre was exploring possibilities of initiating work on the ASEAN Trilateral Motor Work, which will transform the economic scenario of the region, the CM said.

Meanwhile, Asian Development Bank's Country Director Kenichi Yokoyamana, who was present at the event, said ADB is preparing Assam for the ASEAN market, estimated at around USD 800 billion.

"The North East and particularly Assam has the locational advantage as the centre for the regional cooperation framework for India with the ASEAN and BBN countries," Yokoyamana said. ADB has Rs 7,000 crore in investments in Assam and is a key to integrating the state with ASEAN countries by preparing a vision and strategy suitable for the South East Asia markets.

The areas where Assam can increase ties with the ASEAN countries were agriculture, agro-processing, services sector, tourism and information technology, he said.

The ASEAN-Indian Business Council (AIBC) called for an initiative to set up a North East Trading Centre in ASEAN countries.

The tourism market in the north east is untapped and there can be tie-ups with ASEAN countries to explore opportunities in this direction, AIBC Co-Chairman Dato Ramesh Kodammal said.

Sonowal also batted for eased travel rules and increased cultural exchanges among students, academics and professionals.

"Cooperation and collaboration can do wonders as is evident from the state-of-the-art skill development centre set up by Singapore here, which has helped our youth extensively," he said.

The CM said Assam had extensive economic collaboration with Myanmar, Bangladesh and other countries of the region before independence but after 1947, transport linkages were snapped, resulting in "economic stagnation and social strife".

"Now with the Act East Policy, increased ties with South East Asian countries will lead to a vibrant Assam," he added.

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