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EU looks for a role in connecting North-East with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh

The India-EU Global Gateway Conference begins on Thursday in Meghalaya (Map: ICWA)

India and the European Union (EU) are holding the Global Gateway Conference in Meghalaya on Thursday. The two-day meet seeks to boost connectivity in India’s North-East region as well as integrate it with neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal for improved trade and economic uplift of the region.

The conference will also seek to “explore possibilities of boosting connectivity investments in India’s North-Eastern States and with India’s neighbours”, says the Ministry of External Affairs. The connectivity project stands on three pillars of strengthening Digital, Energy and Transport links, and aims to identify projects for joint implementation.

For India, the two-day meet will ignite action around connectivity issues in South Asia which are being implemented through the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative in an effort to build a seamless movement of people and cargo traffic. Connectivity between the four nations is expected to lead to regional economic integration and better people-to-people contacts, which have remained tethered to tensions among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations.

The India–EU Connectivity Partnership was launched during the India–EU Leaders’ Meeting in May 2021 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 27 EU Member States and the President of the European Council and the European Commission. The ambitious ‘connectivity partnership’ is focused on enhancing digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity, through private and public financing of these projects.

It also looks at supporting connectivity initiatives in Indo-Pacific nations.

The EU-India connectivity partnership aims at supporting sustainable digital, transport and energy networks besides promoting the flow of people, goods, services, data and capital. The conference in Meghalaya will also scout for investments in the areas of health and education, clean and renewable energy and transport connectivity consisting of roads, bridges and railways.

Besides India and the EU, the conference will be attended by stakeholders from the private sector as well as representatives from the three South Asian nations.

The Global Gateway Strategy of the EU, which was launched in December 2021, builds on the priorities of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), along with linking to its Indo-Pacific strategy and separate connectivity partnerships with Japan and India.

For India, the experiences of an integrated EU will come in handy for linking South Asia along with the benefits of strengthening the Indo-Pacific framework.

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