Northeast will be key to linkages with southeast Asia: VK Singh

New Delhi: Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh on Friday expressed confidence that India's northeast region will play a prominent role in contributing to the country's linkages with South East Asia. "There is no doubt that India's foreign policy and relations with neighbouring countries will have a profound effect on the future of the northeast, primarily because the neighbouring countries have common borders and affinities with one or more states," Singh said at a function here where he released a book "Strategic Significance of North East India", authored by Dr D. Bhalla, IAS, Secretary in the Lok Sabha Secretariat. Singh, who headed the Indian Army's Eastern Command -- which looks after the country's northeast region -- before he became the army chief, said the physical location of the northeastern states makes it imperative that they develop in consonance with their neighbours. "The corollary is also true."  This comes out very succinctly in the book, Singh said and added that with the government's 'Look East Policy' and the recent initiatives of the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the region will play a prominent role in contributing to the country's linkages with South East Asia. Singh was also Minister of State in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) in the Modi government till November 2014. The book's author Dr D. Bhalla is a 1986 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Nagaland cadre. He is posted in the Lok Sabha Secretariat since May 2015. Earlier, he was Executive Director of Food Corporation of India. The author has brought out the long history of political unrest, neglect, under-development and insurgency in the northeastern region -- all issues impacting the security of the country and the economic well-being of the northeast. The 'Eight Sisters of the Northeast' -- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura -- enjoy special status by way of non-lapsable development funds, liberalised norms for funding and central assistance, special economic packages and tax exemptions. One aspect that makes the northeastern region strategic from the security point of view is that most of these states share international borders with other countries. Of them, Arunachal Pradesh has borders with China, which claims the whole of the state as Southern Tibet. Besides the geography, people, economy and commercial potential of the region, particularly tourism, author Bhalla has dwelt at length in his book about insurgency and various facets of strategic importance and suggested future policies to bring out the full potential of the region. Bhalla has had long experience of governance in Nagaland and in the central government. He has a deep understanding of the myriad geo-strategic, political, economic and cultural issues that together make the northeastern states a potential powerhouse or a region begging for attention, according to the foreword written by Singh.