The predominant narrative about India’s North – East is poised for an image makeover. A rare coalescing of domestic politics and foreign policy interests is bringing about a sea change in the perception. For long, the North-East, otherwise rich in culture and biodiversity, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons- ethnic conflicts, separatists’ violence, cross-border terrorism, refugee infiltration and low economic development. In fact, these are cited as the main causes for the insurgency in this region. But with the gradual return of peace and normalcy, this region is bound to emerge as a potential tourism hub.
Look East Policy (LEP) of the Government of India is unlocking the huge potential and enlarging the developmental scope for the region. The primarily agrarian economies of the North- East are dependent on export of raw commodities and dominated by small and medium enterprises. A full play of the LEP is facilitating the process by which these economies will gain scale and access to a larger market. The building of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and an optic fibre network would help develop connectivity, trade and commerce, and tourism between the region and neighboring Southeast Asia.
Tourism can be a game changer, opined Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman, FICCI North East Advisory Council. He says that the focus should be on linkages because the region lacks an institutional mechanism. Manipur is to host India’s first Eco Tourism Conclave on April 7-8, 2014. It focused on Adventure Tourism, Heritage Tourism, MICE Tourism, Golf Tourism, Polo Tourism, Medical Tourism, Water based Tourism and Sports, Rural Tourism and Culture Tourism. States of North -East had shown economic growth of 10% a year, faster than the country’s average rate of growth. Manipur and Assam have modern medical facilities, and has been attracting medical tourists from countries like Myanmar. Myanmar is also opening up to foreign investment, and it shall be in India’s interest to make sure that our North Eastern hilly states do not fall behind.