NEW DELHI, India is seeking to improve air connectivity in its Northeastern region, especially from Guwahati to cities of Southeast Asian nations, Secretary (East) of Indian Ministry of External Affairs Preeti Saran said.

"The link to Guwahati will be important. We look forward to further enhancement to the Northeastern Region," Preeti Saran told a group of ASEAN journalists during an India-ASEAN media exchange program in New Delhi.

Guwahati, capital of Assam State in northeast India, is one of fastest growing regions in the South Asian country.

Furthermore, Assam is also seeking to position itself as a gateway to Southeast Asia and ASEAN member countries.

"The air connectivity to Guwahati will connect Southeast Asia to Indias Northeastern Region," Saran said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Assam State Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam has invited the ASEAN member countries to set up their consulate offices in the states capital, Guwahati, for liaising with the state government and exploring business opportunities.

"We are interested in welcoming ASEAN member countries to set up their consulates here," he said.

The neighboring Bhutan in February this year became the second country after Bangladesh to open a consulate in Guwahati whereas most of foreign countries consulates and international airports are located in Kolkata and New Delhi.

The hilly, fertile, lush, and green Assam State has a lot of similarities with Southeast Asia, such as its foods, culture, arts, traditional clothes, and people.

One of the main challenges now is how to creating awareness of the region to the Southeast Asian countries and vice versa.

India will also be a huge market for Southeast Asian products but connectivity and infrastructures have become major challenges to further push the trade ties of India and the Southeast Asian nations.

Establishing Assam as a hub in Northeast India would be favorable for Indias efforts in achieving a balanced and fast-paced growth of its Northeastern Region as Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated in the Act East Policy.

The Act East Policy requires increased people to people contacts, trade ties and other relations with countries on Indias east, particularly the ASEAN member states.

As an ASEAN member country, Indonesia holds a significant position for the Indian economy as it is the biggest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

India has become an export destination country for Indonesian palm oil and the second-largest coal importer.

With regard to investment, India is also important for Indonesia. Indias investments rose significantly in 2017, more than five folds from US$55 million a year earlier to US$286.6 million.

Based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2017, the Indonesia-India trade balance increased 28.7 percent, with total exports of $14.08 billion and imports at $4.05 billion.

Source: NAM News Network