Home / Politics / Policy /  India seeks to boost connectivity with Asean nations

New Delhi: As vibrant South East Asian economies look to coalesce into an economic community by 2015 and India seeks to deepen linkages with it, a key priority will be to ensure connectivity between India and the grouping, a senior foreign ministry official said Friday.

Addressing a seminar on India-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) maritime connectivity in New Delhi, Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the ministry of external affairs, noted that India was only the third country after China and Japan to begin formal talks on connectivity with the Asean Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC), the next meeting of which will be held in New Delhi in March.

The idea of connectivity between India and countries of Southeast Asia is not new, Wadhwa said. “It is today central to the Asean-India partnership for progress and prosperity. Equally importantly, it is also of relevance to the maintenance of peace and security in the region," he added, an allusion to tensions generated by conflicting territorial claims among many Asean and neighbouring countries to islands in the South China Sea and beyond.

“Two major developments are lending even greater urgency to our (India-Asean) connectivity agenda. One is the Asean march towards an Asean community by 2015, which will consolidate a market of more than 600 million people and a combined GDP of $2.3 trillion," Wadhwa said.

“The second development is the consolidation of economic and commercial engagement between India and Asean through the FTA (free trade agreement) on trade in goods, which has been in place since 2009, and the FTA on services and investment which is expected to be signed in the coming months after Asean countries complete their internal processes for signature. This will integrate an economic space of 1.8 billion people and a GDP of over $3.7 trillion," he said.

India launched a “look east" policy in 1992 aimed at forging closer links between India and Asean countries and with a view to developing its northeastern states. India and Asean operationalized a free trade agreement (FTA) in goods in 2010 and trade between the bloc and India reached $80 billion in 2011-12. Both sides have set a target of $200 billion by 2022.

Asean groups together Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

India is already pursuing a trilateral highway project with Myanmar and Thailand and another project to link Myanmar with India’s landlocked northeast. Other plans include a Delhi-Hanoi railway link running through Manipur and a sea corridor connecting Chennai with Dawei in Myanmar.

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