The Ministry of External Affairs, the EU Delegation to India, and the Asian Confluence jointly organized the India – EU Connectivity Conference in Meghalaya on 01 – 02 June 2023. The objective of the conference was to explore connectivity investments and identify concrete projects in India’s North Eastern States and with India’s neighbours (Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh), for implementation under the India – EU Connectivity Partnership, which was launched during the India – EU leaders Meet in May 2021.
The Conference was inaugurated by Shri Conrad Kongkal Sangma, the Hon. Chief Minister of Meghalaya, and Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs (MoS) on 01 June. In his address, MOS stressed the importance placed by the Govt. of India on Connectivity initiatives, both within the country, and as part of India’s Development Partnership abroad. MOS further highlighted the tremendous opportunities for India – EU Triangular Development Cooperation in South Asia and the Indo – Pacific.
The CM of Meghalaya in his address emphasized the importance of interstate and cross border connectivity for the North East region as a whole, and for Meghalaya in particular. In that regard, CM referred to India’s ‘Act East’ Policy, within which Meghalaya has an ‘Act South’ Policy focussing on the need to improve connectivity between Meghalaya and Bangladesh. He suggested a ‘Zonal Approach’ to connectivity, involving neighbouring states that caters to the needs of each state.
The second day of the Conference saw technical sessions on the themes; Digital Connectivity, Energy Connectivity, Transport Connectivity and Connectivity and Beyond focusing on projects linking the Northeast with India’s neighbourhood, as part of the ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies. The sessions saw participation from senior officials of the Govt. of India, the EU Commission, Government(s) of the North Eastern States of India, North Eastern Council, stakeholders from Nepal, Bangladesh and executives from private sector with presence in the region.
Deliberations in the panel on ‘Connectivity & Beyond’ focused on the hurdles and bottlenecks faced by these projects, and on ways to ameliorate their impacts. The panel on ‘Digital Connectivity’ focused on improving the network penetration in the region by deploying infrastructure, and simultaneously building capacity of the various stakeholders to ensure meaningful connectivity. Developing localized off – grid solutions through community participation was stressed as the way forward to promote ‘Energy Connectivity’ in the region. Experts deliberating on ‘Transport Connectivity’ appreciated the several ongoing transformative infrastructure developments in road, rail and waterway connections in the region, but suggested there was need for more. Deliberations also focussed on identifying the right projects to source external funding.
Going forward, a study on the existing EU Member States driven projects would be brought out by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). MEA, the EU Delegation and other stakeholders such as RIS would identify suitable projects for joint implementation under the framework of the India-EU Connectivity Partnership. It will be recollected that the first-ever India-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial meeting held in Brussels on 16 May 2023 had prioritised – Connectivity Partnership – as one of the important focus areas of cooperation between India and the EU.