To bolster economic and cultural ties between India and the Asean, the government on Monday stressed on the need to focus on improving maritime, road and rail connectivity. According to Union minister for road transport, highway, shipping, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari, India has proposed a $1-billion line of credit to promote sea, air and road connectivity projects with the Asean. At the inaugural day of the two-day first Asean-India Connectivity Summit on “Powering Digital and Physical Linkages for Asia in the 21st Century”, Gadkari said, “Also, India has set up a project development fund of $77 million to develop manufacturing hubs in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.” The summit, which is being organised by the ministry of external affairs and the Asean-India Centre (AIC), emphasised on the importance of international corridors for expanding trade in the region. The summit comes ahead of the visit of the leaders of the 10 member states of the Asean next month.
According to Gadkari, river and port connectivity is very important for boosting trade and investment and the government was giving special focus to developing the maritime sector. The government has set aside $1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity. “We are planning to create cruise tourism (network) which can be connected to Asean countries. This year, 80 cruise ships came to Mumbai. We are spending `1,000 crore and building a cruise terminal. After five years, 950 cruise ships will come to Mumbai.”
Gadkari also said the work of dredging had started on Brahmaputra river for developing a water transport channel up to Bangladesh. This will further connect India to Myanmar and other Asean countries. “Connectivity projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (TH), extension of TH to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project are being planned are at different stages of implementation,” he said.
India is already working with Myanmar in the areas of border area development, capacity building, infrastructure development, connectivity projects and institutional development. Stressing on the need to focus on improving maritime connectivity with Asean, MoS for MEA, Gen VK Singh (retd) said, “The Andaman and Nicobar group of islands will be developed as an economic and a strategic hub. There is a strong case for improving maritime connectivity. Both Asean and India are endowed with several islands.” Work is in progress on the Asean-India maritime transport cooperation agreement.