He flags up India-Myanmar-Thailand highway and Mekong-India economic corridor
Declaring that India's partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the foundation of its ‘Look East Policy,' Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that greater physical connectivity between India and the 10-member grouping remains New Delhi's “strategic objective.”
In his statement at the ninth ASEAN-India Summit here on Saturday, Dr. Singh listed proposals, among others, for an India-Myanmar-Thailand highway and its extension to Laos and Cambodia, and the development of a new highway also linking Vietnam. He also referred to a study on a Mekong-India economic corridor, which proposes to link corridors in the peninsular, and possibly the north-eastern, regions of India with the East Asian region.
With ratification of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for Trade in Goods in August this year, the ideas to push for greater physical connectivity could be expected to gather pace.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Singh appreciated the “widespread” support from every ASEAN leader for early conclusion of the India-ASEAN FTA on Services and Investment and hoped that the agreement would be concluded by March 2012. “I would suggest that all these different proposals [for enhanced physical connectivity] should be studied in an integrated manner by our officials so that we take considered decisions to optimise our resources and efforts,” he said.
He described as “growing” India's cooperation with the ASEAN in maritime security, counter-terrorism, training, exercises and disaster management.
Dr. Singh said India's trade with ASEAN had increased by 30 per cent in 2010-2011, crossing the $50-billion mark, and with such a rate of growth, the target of $70 billion by 2012 would be feasible.
He also extended a personal invitation to the ASEAN heads of state to participate in the special ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit scheduled in New Delhi for the third week of December.
Later in the day, in his statement at the sixth East Asia Summit Plenary Session, Dr. Singh underscored that India fully subscribed to the view that the East Asia Summit process must be centred on the ASEAN, and the ASEAN should be its driving force.
He later left for Singapore on a two-day visit. Strengthening of economic ties would top the agenda of his interaction with Singapore leaders.