India for Three-Way Talks to Boost Connectivity With Thailand, Myanmar
India today said it has proposed three-way talks with Myanmar and Thailand on negotiations over a Transit Transport Agreement for the Trilateral Highway to boost connectivity and trade with the strategic region.
Addressing representatives of Think Tanks from ASEAN countries and the ASEAN-India Centre, Anil Wadhwa, secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the relationship with the ASEAN countries continues to be the foundation of India’s Look East Policy.
“We see it as a strategic partnership with implications for the ASEAN India region, its integrated economic space and its 1.8 billion people. We also agree with our ASEAN friends on its relevance as an anchor of peace and stability in East Asia and the contribution that we can bring collectively to issues on the global agenda,” he said.
He recalled External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement yesterday that connectivity in all its dimensions is receiving the highest priority on the ASEAN India agenda.
Progress in intra-ASEAN connectivity will also assist the objective of enhancing connectivity between ASEAN and India. But the physical infrastructure can be utilised only if we also agree on the soft infrastructure necessary to permit movement of traffic and goods on these economic corridors.
“We have, therefore, proposed that India-Myanmar-Thailand begin negotiations on a Transit Transport Agreement for the Trilateral Highway,” he said.
“We need to see suggestions on how Tier II and Tier III cities in India can develop business and tourism linkages with destinations in ASEAN on a scale that is sustainable the year round. This will assist efforts to broaden air connectivity beyond just some of the big capitals in ASEAN and the metros in India,” he added.
“We had made available 18 such routes to ASEAN some years ago and we are keen on their utilisation at the earliest. We have also offered the ASEAN an Open Sky Policy on Cargo on quid pro quo basis,” Wadhwa said.
The FTA on Trade in Goods, which India signed in 2009, has helped to bring about steady increase in trade volumes between ASEAN and India. It now stands at USD 76 billion annually and we are pursuing a target of USD 100 billion by 2015, he said.
“There is a trade imbalance in favour of the ASEAN but that sometimes comes naturally. This will be discussed at the meeting between ASEAN Economic Ministers and their Indian counterpart in Nay Pyi Taw,” he said.
Wadhwa expressed hope that ASEAN members will be able to discuss practical ways in which ASEAN and India can take advantage of this new FTA to increase jobs, standards of life, industrial and economic capacities and opportunities for partnership.