North-East Festival is a festival that celebrates the beauty, diversity, and integrity of North-East India. The USP of this festival is the way in which we seamlessly integrate elements of social cohesion, cultural heritage, and economic welfare, making them an immersive experience for all. This also seeks to give a fillip to ties between North Eastern India and the increasingly important ASEAN region. The festival can give a boost to tourism in the region along with opening new horizons for entrepreneurs from North Eastern India, and the rest of the country.
The North-East (India) Festival was held at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi from December 23 to December 26, 2022. The first seven editions of the event were held from 2013-2019 (the last two editions were held in Guwahati in a hybrid model) at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi. The festival seeks not just to increase awareness about the culture and traditions of North-Eastern India, but also to showcase the immense potential of the region in terms of economy and tourism.
Senior ministers and high-ranking officials in the Government of India participated in the festival, with the event being inaugurated by Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Narayan Rane. The key highlights of the festival were over 50 food stalls from the region, a number of music bands and an exhibition by 100 Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) entrepreneurs from the North-East who showcased products such as – handloom & crafts, organic food, agriculture-based horticulture processed products. A number of B2B meetings had also been organized during the festival.
It would be pertinent to point out that, in recent years, the North-East has also witnessed an increase in the number of start-ups (the bulk of these are in Assam).
Chief Organizer of the festival, Shyamkanu Mahanta, while summing up the festival’s key objectives, remarked: “As the name goes, North East Festival – Connecting people Celebrating life – is a festival that celebrates the beauty, diversity, and integrity of North East India. The USP of this festival is the way in which we seamlessly integrate elements of social cohesion, cultural heritage, and economic welfare, making them an immersive experience for all.”
The festival has also been able to remove misconceptions and prejudices with regard to this region, in the rest of the country, and has rather shifted the focus to what the region has to offer in terms of art, culture and economy.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in domestic tourism. While there has been an increase in the number of tourists visiting the North-East owing to flights between Guwahati and Delhi, there is immense potential for attracting a large number of tourists to the North-Eastern region, since it has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty, adventure sports, sight-seeing and cuisine.
In recent years, the North-East has emerged as an important component of India’s outreach vis-à-vis South East Asia, also referred to as the Act East Policy. The North-East is important, because of being India’s gateway to South-East Asia. The India-Myanmar-Thailand highway which connects Moreh (Manipur) with Thailand is important since it will enable India to connect with the rest of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. The North-Eastern region also has historical linkages with the South-East Asian region.
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A North-East (India) Festival was organized in Bangkok (Thailand) in 2022. The festival was organized by the Embassy of India in association with the North-Eastern states of India and Trend MMS, India. The organizers of the North-East Festival in India were the Minister of State for External Affairs, along with senior officials from North-Eastern states including – Chief Ministers of Meghalaya and Nagaland Conrad Sangma and Neiphu Rio, respectively, Arunachal Pradesh Deputy CM Chowna Mein, Assam’s Textile Minister Urkhao Gwra Brahma and Revenue Minister Jogen Mahan, and Tourism Ministers of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh Robert Rongmawaia Royte and Nakap Nalo, respectively were present. The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Jurin Laksanawisit and other senior Thai officials were also present at the event.
Apart from discussing potential economic synergies between North-Eastern India and South-East Asia, there was also a focus on boosting tourist linkages. In this context, tour operators from Thailand and the North-East also interacted during the event.
Here it would be important to point out, that apart from economic and tourist linkages, in recent years there have also been attempts to strengthen educational linkages, via researchers, between North-East India and South-East Asia.
The North-East Festival is important for several reasons. First, it highlights aspects of the region’s culture and economy that residents in other parts of India are not familiar with. Second, it can give a boost to tourism in the region. Third, it opens new horizons for entrepreneurs from North-Eastern India, and the rest of the country. The organizers of the North-East Festival also need to be lauded for organizing an impressive event in Bangkok which sought to give a fillip to ties between North-Eastern India and the increasingly important ASEAN region. In conclusion, the North-East is becoming increasingly important for India both in the domestic context as well as its ties with ASEAN. The North-East Festival is, thus, an important initiative which seeks to highlight the unexplored side of the North-East region hitherto.
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