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There could have been very few spectators from India’s North-east at the Dubai Cricket Stadium where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the 50,000 strong crowd on Monday. Even those few had the wildest imagination of Modi dedicating over five minutes of his speech to NE. ‘Oh, he cares for us’ – kind of feeling might have passed through their nerves, when Modi referred to Nagaland multiple times, albeit on terrorism. Many in the crowd, including Indians, might have heard of ‘Nagaland’ for the first time. Even many Indians living in India do not know if Nagaland is part of their country or China or Myanmar! For some, it may be weird for a Prime Minister of a great nation like India to dedicate several minutes to speak about an ‘insignificant’ part of the country. Modi, perhaps, became the first Prime Minister to express concern about North-east while speaking on a foreign soil other than neighbours of North-east such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Bhutan and Nepal.

Modi, of course, boasted about his government’s ‘achievement’ in signing a historic peace agreement with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), the most prominent insurgent outfit of the North-east. The government of India (GoI) termed it a historic deal with the NSCN-IM, which is under ceasefire with the GoI since 1997. Modi brought the reference of Nagaland while pointing at the absence of the definition of ‘terrorism’ even at the United Nations. He asserted that there could be no good or bad terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism. Obviously, he was referring to Pakistan, even stating that ‘things like good Taliban and bad Taliban will not be accepted anymore. While speaking, he seemed to have the confidence of the UAE leadership, who are usually seen on the side of Pakistan.

Modi, the first Prime Minister to visit United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 34 years, also referred to the North-east while explaining his government’s vision to connect to the south-east Asian neighbours. By saying that ‘India can achieve growth only when its eastern region develops on par with the western part’ he named Assam as a prime focus. Critics would say the PM may have some political motives behind naming regions and states. Some eastern Indian states like Bihar and Assam are going to polls in the next few months. But, even then, the North-east should feel happy about getting featured in the PM’s speech delivered on a foreign soil thousands of miles away from the region.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 19, 2015)

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