Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sikkim takes bite of Big Apple


New York, Sept. 29: At least for one day, the conversation on Assam was not about how much damage the floods had caused this year. And there was little talk about “disturbed areas” or about how many insurgent organisations were active in the Northeast.
Instead, a procession of chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, senior ministers and chief secretaries from six northeastern states were at their best in New York last week, selling their region to the world at a full-day Northeast India Investment Conference.
They used Powerpoint presentations, slides and prepared speeches — neatly printed and distributed among the audience by bureaucrats, not hotel waiters — to project a picture of the Northeast that people here had never seen before.
The orchids, fruits, aromatic plants and bamboo plantations of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur’s Loktak Lake with its surrounding green hills and Keibul Lamjao, the world’s last habitat of the Sangai, the bow-antlered deer, the Muga silks of Assam, Sikkim’s success with the environment, which earned its chief minister, Pawan Chamling, the title of “greenest chief minister” in a nationwide poll... and so on.
America’s response to the conference certainly met the expectations of the organisers, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Union ministry for development of the Northeast region.
In Grand Hyatt Hotel’s Manhattan ballroom, which can seat 400 people, there were no vacant seats at any table when the chief ministers and senior ministers from the Northeast were collectively addressing the conference in the morning.
Tarun Das, the CII’s chief mentor, said this was the “first effort to flag the Northeast as an area of investment internationally”.

The presence of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, as the chief guest at the conference lent a lot of credibility to the event because he is well known and respected in the financial and corporate world here as a key promoter of India’s economic reforms.
A high-power team of government secretaries from New Delhi and heads of public sector infrastructure companies demonstrated to the audience that the central government was firmly backing the investment promotion drive by the Northeast states.