The Andaman and Nicobar Islands can become a “spring board” for India’s engagement with Southeast Asia and the Pacific region and be developed as a trading and tourist hub, President Pranab Mukherjee said here Saturday.
Mukherjee also said his visit to the islands was an opportunity to pay homage to the freedom fighters who underwent great hardship and suffering to secure India’s independence. The Cellular Jail bears testimony to the sacrifices made by them, he said.
“It stands as a symbol of the burning patriotism of many freedom fighters who spent their youthful lives here in incarceration,” he said.
Noting the islands lie at the important junction of South Asia and Southeast Asia, he said: “Around 30 percent of India’s exclusive economic zone and concomitant marine resources are around these islands. These islands are not only the maritime gateway to the Bay of Bengal but also overlook major international sea routes.”
“These islands have the potential to be a spring board for India’s engagement with Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. They can be developed as a significant trading, shipping and tourist hub.”
The islands are home of some of “most precious tribal communities”, who are equal partners in the nation’s efforts at progress through modernisation, Mukherjee said.
“Progress must come to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but it must come with deference to the local people, their traditions and the ecology. People working amongst the tribals must take up the task of development with a spirit of dedication as well as a spirit of understanding and sympathy,” he said.
The president also laid a wreath at the Martyr’s Column at the National Memorial Cellular Jail, and attended a reception at Netaji Stadium in Port Blair.
Lt. Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) A.K. Singh, and local MP Bishnu Pada Ray were also present during the programmes.