The significance of look northeast policy in India’s G20 presidency

India got off to the welcome start by hosting the heads of the missions of the member countries and nine other friendly nations at Swarajdweep on the Andaman Islands.
For reprentational purpose
For reprentational purpose

India’s presidency of G20 is significant. The world order is fluid and the economic order in the midst of a reset. The polarised world order has turned its attention on India, and there is much expectation from the country in the global capitals.

It is against this backdrop that India assumed the G20 presidency on December 1.

India got off to a welcome start by hosting the heads of the missions of the member countries and nine other friendly nations at Swarajdweep on the Andaman Islands. This was part of a well-thought-out plan to acquaint the diplomatic community with the journey of the Indian freedom movement and the significance of the island, which has the cellular jail.

The mission heads visited various sites on the island, which are set in the backdrop of the blue ocean and coral reefs. Andaman and Nicobar Islands is one of India’s greatest assets, full of tourism potential, which the Centre is working to tap.

The sherpas of the G20 met in Udaipur, Rajasthan, which is already known to the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held meetings with chief ministers and governors on the hosting of the G20, as states gear up to host some of the meetings during the one year of India’s presidency. Modi, in last month’s Mann ki Baat, also said today’s delegates are tomorrow’s tourists.

India’s north-eastern states have seen robust development of infrastructure. Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur and others are now connected with New Delhi through rail and air routes. These networks have brought the Northeast much closer to other parts of the country. The days of economic blockades by insurgency groups are also history. Manipur and Assam are peaceful.

Nagaland and Meghalaya too are taking part in the development journey of India.

The time has come to open the northeastern states to the world. From hills to tea estates and pristine rivers, the region has extraordinary tourist attractions. Why should it then not compete with the best in the world at a time when India is most talked about in foreign capitals?

The third quarter of the GDP showed that hotels, travel and hospitality grew at a much faster rate. While the share of tourism in India’s GDP is 5.8 per cent, the country’s share in the global industry is less than 2 per cent, despite seeing an incremental rise from 1.1 per cent in 2017 to 1.6 per cent in 2021. The sector earns close to USD 9 billion annually. The major attractions for foreign tourists are Goa, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, but these needs to be changed and efforts scaled up to ensure that the Northeast benefits in the course of one year when India chairs the G20.

The Centre can host some of the key meetings of the grouping in the northeastern states. Also, the tourism ministry should host marquee events in international tourist circuits, enlisting tour operators to include the northeastern states in their packages. The connectivity issue has been addressed. The northeastern states now need hotels of international standards, which should be quickly brought in.

The state governments must pool their resources and create a platform to brand their region in the international circuit. Some of the chief ministers of the northeastern states have shown promise of being policy-proactive. They should hold an urgent brainstorming session and deliver actionable agenda in a fixed time frame.

Indian missions abroad should be part of the exercise. The efforts executed in mission mode can help open the region to the world. The Northeast can gift India a 5 per cent global tourism share, and that will be a force multiplier for the GDP.

Sumeet Bhasin

Director, Public Policy Research Centre

Twitter: @sumeetbhasin

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