Initiative for boosting air connectivity in the NorthEast region has received a boost with the HAL (Hindus-tan Aeronautics Limited) signing an agreement with Alliance Air to lease out two 16-seater aircraft, for operation in Arunachal Pradesh under the Central government's UDAAN scheme. Apart from providing faster connectivity to the people living in the remote area, better air connectivity can bring more tourists to the region and also to the wonderful unexplored travel destinations. State Governments in the region expediting land acquisition for air -connectivity projects is the key determinant in determining the pace of such projects. The two Dornier aircrafts will connect Pasighat and Tezu in the first phase; Mechuka, Tuting, Vijaynagar and Ziro in the second phase; while Dirang and Daporijo are planned to be connected in the third phase. While Pasighat and Tezu have passenger-terminal buildings, construction of terminal buildings is on at Mechuka, Ziro and Tuting. Arunahcal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu has made a pragmatic suggestion of making Guwahati or Dibrugarh the operational base of the Dorner aircraft till the Greenfield Airport under construction at Hollongi in Arunachal Pradesh is completed. All these places in Arunachal Pradesh are known for their mesmerising landscapes, rich cultural practices, wonderful culture and also the warm hospitality of the local people which attract tourists from across the globe.
The development comes close on the heels of Union Minister for Development of Northeast Region (DoNER) and Tourism G. Kishan Reddy and Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia holding discussions on fast tracking the civil aviation projects in the region. The issue of pending land acquisition for some of the civil aviation projects in the region came to the fore and Scindia is learnt to have urged the DoNER Minister for his intervention to the get these issues resolved. As the Civil Aviation Ministry has been taking up the issues with the State governments in the region, the DoNER Minister coordinating with the States can be expected to fast track those pending projects. Scindia suggested the constitution of an advisory committee with representatives from the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Railways and Road Transport and Highways and Environment and Forest under the chairmanship of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and the DoNER for building synergies towards tourism development and to promote all the infrastructure-related activities in a holistic way. Ensuring that the formation of such a committee is not delayed is important so that the committee can meet as quickly as possible to make the necessary recommendations and also act as the catalyst. Better air connectivity in the region can also be utilised for promoting trade, commerce and tourism with the ASEAN countries and with neighbouring Bangladesh and Bhutan. As the region is known to be an organic hub, exporting low-volume high-value cargoes of organic fruits, vegetables and various handicraft items to these markets next door is possible even by operating smaller cargo aircrafts to transport to export hubs like Guwahati. It just needs the policy makers and planners to be able to look for innovative solutions to overcome the challenges of the landlocked situation of the region. India's 'Act East Policy' and the 'Neighbourhood Policy' provide the enabling policy regime to plan and execute schemes and projects that help deepen the country's bilateral and multilateral engagement with ASEAN as well as two key neighbours -- Bangladesh and Bhutan. Unless the region actually gets benefitted from India's regional connectivity projects with the neighbourhood, the oft repeated statement that the Northeast is at the core of these two key foreign policy initiatives will remain a mere rhetoric. Recent initiatives for boosting air connectivity in the region has been mostly limited to the individual States taking up the pending projects with the Civil Aviation ministry. All the States in the region collectively lobbying for all the air connectivity projects in the region can project the collective requirement of the region before the Central Government. The States working together to promote a common market of goods and services in the region will also attract the private players to evince interest in such projects. Entrepreneurs of the region will also be benefitted by the promotion of such a market in the region. Constitution of a permanent platform of all the Chief Ministers of the region for taking up development and infrastructure projects of common interest with the Central government will also help the DoNER and the NEC (North Eastern Council) to identify the bottlenecks in the projects that are targeted to cover all the States in the region. While the DoNER ministry has the system of consultation with all States in place, periodic joint review of the progress of the projects aimed at connectivity and other engagements with the neighbouring and the ASEAN countries by the Chief Ministers can help identify the common points for such consultation. For the ASEAN nations as well as Bangladesh and Bhutan to be attracted to engage with the Northeast region for trade, commerce and people-to-people engagement, the current consultation process needs to create more space for the pan-Northeast projects.