President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday highlighted the Centre's efforts to improve connectivity by modes of road, railway and air to the Northeastern states, and said the region was a "gateway to India linking with the Indian subcontinent and the ASEAN".
"The Government of India's approach to the development of the Northeast is an urgent and speedy enhancement of connectivity. This is a multi-modal programme, across land, water and air," the president said while inaugurating the Northeast Development Summit in Imphal, Manipur.
He also underlined numerous projects taken up to improve travelling to Northeast by road, railway and air. "And it refers both to connectivity within India as well as to connectivity between India and its eastern and Southeast Asian neighbours," Kovind said.
Commerce and Industry minister Suresh Prabhu, Minister of State for Tourism K J Alphons, Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah and chief ministers of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland were present on the occasion. "The Northeast's geographical location makes it the obvious gateway to India, linking the vast economies of the Indian subcontinent and of today's ASEAN countries," the president said.
This is the potential we have to tap. And this is the idea that must inspire this Summit, he added. The president, who is on his maiden visit to the Northeast, said that the region was an amazing social and cultural ecosystem. "Few regions of the world have such a wealth of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity packed into such a small area. This variety is an inspiration for all of us," he said.
The Northeast is home to some of the oldest indigenous communities in the world. It is one of our spiritual homelands. Whether it is the traditions of the Devi in Kamakhya or of Buddhism in Tawang and elsewhere, they make for a sacred bond that unites India with Southeast Asia, he said. The president emphasised that in the development of the Northeast is both the development of India as well as the true measure of the India-ASEAN partnership.
Later in the day, Kovind graced and addressed the inaugural event of the 'Manipur Sangai Festival 2017' in Imphal. The president paid tributes to the martyrs of 1891 and said that these heroes will always be remembered for their contribution to the cause of our freedom and human liberty. For every Indian, the great Bir Tikendrajit and his comrades are cherished icons, he said.
He also praised Olympian boxer Mary Kom. The president said "a favourite – not just his favourite; our favourite, the whole country's favourite – is the magnificent Mary Kom, Manipur's very own Olympic medallist". He recalled his tweet after she won the gold medal in the Asian Boxing Championship recently, "You make us prouder with every punch."