India’s Act East Policy is gaining momentum and popularity, with a series of recent developments pointing toward New Delhi’s efforts to project the Northeast as a thriving tourism destination. The Act East Policy’s dedication to developing the Northeast as a tourist attraction is evident through several initiatives: G20 Initiative, promotion of cultural festivals like the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, easing restricted area permits for foreigners to visit specific parts of the Northeast, particularly in Border States like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland, marks a significant step. Moreover, the recent tour by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) to Phek district, where youths were encouraged to pursue ecotourism projects, underscores the ongoing efforts to promote tourism and economic growth in the region.
The recent holding of the North East Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, demonstrates the Act East Policy’s commitment to strengthening ties between India and Vietnam. Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, highlighted the enduring friendship and historical ties between India and Vietnam. He noted that bilateral trade between the two nations has significantly increased, reaching the $15 billion mark in 2022, a substantial growth from $200 million in 2000. During a recent visit by India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Vietnam, both sides expressed their commitment to further boosting bilateral trade to $20 billion.
Minister Singh emphasized the need for air, road, and rail connectivity between the eight North Eastern states and cities in Vietnam. He urged Vietnamese airlines to explore the potential of direct flights between these northeastern states and Vietnamese cities. Guwahati’s international airport is a Gateway to Southeast Asia that offers direct flights to Bangkok and Singapore, making it an ideal hub for connecting the two regions, Singh said.
“To connect North East India, we don’t have a direct flight from Vietnam to North East and a few days back I met the General Manager of Vietnam Airlines and I think we have more discussions about how we can open a direct flight from North East India to Vietnam and it will impact tourism. It will also become a good opportunity for the investors and tourists of both North East India and Vietnam to visit both countries,” Dinh Vinh Cuong, the President of Vietnam International Entrepreneur Networking Club told ANI.
Minister Singh also stressed India’s attractiveness for investment in various sectors, including infrastructure development, renewable energy, digital technology, healthcare, and more. He recognized Vietnam’s remarkable economic progress and its role as a manufacturing hub for high-technology products, while maintaining strengths in traditional agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. In addition, the hospitality industry in the Northeast is evolving to meet the demands of growing tourist footfalls. Minister Singh invited hospitality businesses from Vietnam to identify investment opportunities in this sector.
Shyamkanu Mahanta, Chief Organiser of the North East India Festival, emphasized that the event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, demonstrates the Act East Policy in action. He highlighted that it goes beyond a festival, encompassing trade, tourism, and cultural exchange.
“In the inaugural session of the North East India Festival, we saw the political leaders of Vietnam including 15 Provinces leaders. One part of the event is policy making. Today morning, there was a B2B meeting on tourism where 52 operators from Vietnam interacted with government officials and tour operators from North East India about promoting tourism in North East India,” Shyamkanu Mahanta said.
According to Mahanta, tour operators from Vietnam and North East India will mutually visit each other, potentially boosting tourism. Airlines are considering new routes, such as Ho Chi Minh to Guwahati and Hanoi to Guwahati, with a proposal in progress. This development is a significant outcome of the festival, he said.
He also said that, in the Trade and Investment meeting of the North East India Festival, around 80 companies have come from Vietnam and around 30 entrepreneurs have come from North East India.
“Apart from this, the government is here, DoNER ministry officials, investors are here. We are expecting long-term relationships specifically in the tea sector, handloom sector and agri sector. The Trade and Investment meet will facilitate match-making between entrepreneurs from both sides. We are also talking about People to People exchange and Vice Chancellors and directors have come from various universities in North East India and Vietnam. The idea is to bring students from the North East to Vietnam and Vietnamese students can study at Gauhati University, and NEHU University. This process is expected to start,” Mahanta told ANI.