India has reaffirmed its cooperation in the maritime domain and centrality of trade and investments towards the prosperity of India-Pacific region during India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Breakfast Summit in Singapore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India is committed to enhancing cooperation in the maritime domain with the ASEAN regional bloc.”
Under New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’, India has been increasing its engagements with the ASEAN regional bloc which has Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam as the member countries.
This year in January the leaders of the ASEAN countries were the chief guests at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi and celebrated 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership.
A robust maritime connectivity between India and ASEAN is crucial for realization of the full potential of the India ASEAN trade. The India-ASEAN maritime connectivity is the key to facilitate production networks and creation of global and regional value chains.
According to senior officials most of the ASEAN member countries are ahead of India in shipping sector, and Singapore where the East Asia summit is going on is is one of the world’s leading ports and container terminals. The rest of the countries are in the process of modernizing and expanding their ports and related services.
As has been reported earlier, there are challenges to the India-ASEAN maritime connectivity which are often cited by member countries including shortage of port capacity, very few direct calls, high port handling charges, lack of skilled human resources, and absence of an institutional mechanism.
Also, there have been discussions to build new shipping routes through the Malacca Strait which has heavy traffic already. At various foras, all member countries have recommended that an alternative, economic corridor based multimodal connectivity such as Mekong-India Economic Corridor may be promoted, which will connect Indian coast with unexplored Southeast Asian coast and beyond, at a shorter time and lesser cost.