India and the 10-member Asean group are hoping to strengthen ties with physical connectivity playing a bigger role in linking the regions and enhancing opportunities for trade and travel.
Speaking to FE from Bangkok, Anil Wadhwa, ambassador of India to Thailand said, "Connectivity is vital for increased commerce contact and cooperation between India and Asean. Connectivity with Asean in all its dimensions- physical, institutional and people to people - continues to be a strategic priority for India. Two major commemorative events this year - the India-Asean car rally and the Asean sailing expedition of the Indian naval ship Sudarshini - highlight the importance and the potential for connecting India and Asean by sea surface and air links.”
“Improved connectivity between India and Asean will be vital for deepening our economic integration as well as our strategic partnership," Wadhwa said. A trilateral highway - linking Thailand and Myanmar with India - called Friendship Road is slowly nearing completion, while a car rally kicks off from Yogakarta in Indonesia to finally end in India's northeast. At the trilateral highway task force meet in Delhi a few months ago, it was resolved to establish connectivity from Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand by 2016.
"These are welcome steps in implementing the vision of evolution of innovative financing mechanisms for their implementation would help move forward this important aspect of our cooperation," MEA officials added.
A large number of Asean students senior editors diplomats and farmers are slated to visit India in next month and will join the ceremonial flag down of the car rally in New Delhi. Both India and Asean have signed a unique MoU on strengthening tourism cooperation and continuing liberalisation of visa regime. Responding to a query about the intra-Asean connectivity, the ambassador said that, "There are numerous studies on this, and the most important subject which Asean is dealing with is the economic and rail corridors which will eventually connect up with our trilateral highway and its extensions into Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia."
The Asean region is expected to average an annual rate of 5.5% growth over the 2013-17 period, according to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report. During PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Myanmar in May this year, India committed to taking up the renovation of 71 bridges of World War II vintage in that country.