Asian Confluence organized seminar making Shillong a hub for tourism and trade

Shillong, April  21: Local tour operators from the northeastern region, individuals and organizations active at policy-making and operational levels in the field of trade, industry, transport, tourism, hospitality and especially Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development participated in a daylong roundtable “India’s Look East Policy: Strengthening the Look South Aspect: Exploring win-win synergies through Indo Bangladesh Border Trade and Tourism” here on Monday. The caucus was organized by Asian Confluence at its conference hall and was supported by Directorate of Commerce and Industry, Meghalaya Government.

MP Bezbaruah, member, NEC in his keynote address made a vision document for the region that was billed to bring the northeast into the national picture, but failed. “We have not really articulated what we need from the Look East Policy. I would expect civil society to come up with state-wise schemes on what we want from this policy. Myanmar and Bangladesh will play an important role in development of North-East,” he said. Former finance and home minister, Meghalaya, AH Scott Lyngdoh said that the Look East Policy has made little progress since its inception in 1990’s. He said that there is lack of facilities and infrastructure for tourists in the northeast and there is a need to improve infrastructure to promote tourism and trade.

The roundtable discussed threadbare various important topics related to India’s Look East Policy – The Look South Aspect. The caucus emphasized on convenient VISA processing System – setting up visa office in northeast, setting up non-govt. body to make  a platform for northeast tourism, linking up and creating northeast circuit and connecting to South East Asia, making Shillong a hub for tourism and trade, urgent need to restructure relation between India & Bangladesh, creating win-win situations through trade in tourism – need of sufficient infrastructure to facilitate trade, facilitation at the borders, transport connectivity between the two countries, developing highways – developing bus services from Dhaka to northeast, issue of money exchange – rupee directly to taka (doing away with dollar), positive image building of Bangladesh amongst Indians – build a trust through different outlets of media (print, social media etc.) (e.g. incredible northeast), historical tourism, medical tourism, Mukti Youdha – develop a memory trail, cultural tourism, creating Aadivasi Circuit between India and Bangladesh, developing our water-base as tourism potential (e.g. connecting Brahmaputra River) and rural tourism, facilitating informal trade – emphasis on border people to people trade (benefitting people from both sides of the border), creating platform for research in tourism, trade, history of the region – exchange programmes between private universities in Meghalaya and Bangladesh.

To synergize these issues the roundtable also proposed “way forward” which includes linking academician, role of media in NE and Bangladesh, creating tour packages, pushing for consular services, linking policy makers, bring all NE actors and planning a calendar of events to enable people to people contact. The roundtable was also participated by Department of Transport (Meghalaya), Department of Tourism (Meghalaya); Department of Tourism (Assam); Border Development Organizations; Founder, Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development; Owner, Shamoli Transport, Bangladesh; Dacca University; ICARE , Shillong; international tour operators from the region; hotel operators from the region; academic community from the region; editors and columnists.

The Asian Confluence director, Sabyasachi Dutta said that Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura shares a long geographical border with Bangladesh assume significant importance at the economic, social as well as the political strata. “There has been a renewed vigor in engagement between the two countries in primarily two aspects – at the level of the respective local and federal governments of both countries and between large business houses and chambers of commerce. However, a third space for engagement that can further these initiatives exists: that of civil society initiatives comprising of small businesses, organizations and individuals who can play a positive role in augmenting trust building, more people to people exchanges, cultural exchanges and educational exchanges to build up trust and confidence.” He added that the focus of the roundtable will be to create concrete measurable time line and action based agendas that stakeholders from both sides can act upon and joint programs that offer concrete recommendations to policy makers and administrative agencies for both sides.(SP News)





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