India, South East Asian nations improving connectivity: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

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Jaipur | Published: February 27, 2017 3:51:17 PM

India and the South East Asian nations, including Myanmar and Cambodia, are enhancing land and sea connectivity to boost trade and are working on various projects such as Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.

Huge potential exists in the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) nations for Indian manufacturers, Sitharaman said.

India and the South East Asian nations, including Myanmar and Cambodia, are enhancing land and sea connectivity to boost trade and are working on various projects such as Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today. She said huge potential exists in the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) nations for Indian manufacturers.

The Commerce and Industry Minister said India and CLMV countries are working on accelerating projects to improve port, road and air connectivity. India and Myanmar are cooperating to connect the Bay of Bengal ports (Visakhapatnam-Krishnapatnam) and the Sittwe port (in Myanmar), Sitharaman told reporters here. She was speaking here for the 4th India-CLMV Business Conclave, organised by industry body CII. “Sittwe is a major port in Myamnmar. If Sittwe is connected with our Bay of Bengal ports, Visakhapatnam, Krishnapatnam and also south Chennai or even further up to Haldia, Paradaip or Dhamra, a lot of trade which goes from India to these SEA countries can go and land in Sittwe and from there go to Myanmar or CLMV countries,” she said.

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As regards the land connectivity, she informed that the work is being expedited for the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport project (KMTTP). It aims to improve connectivity between Indian ports on the eastern seaboard and Sittwe port in Myanmar. The Myanmar government has stated that it will expedite the work from its side, she said, adding that the Indian side of the work is progressing. This project, she said, would technically connect Kolkata through the north eastern states of India to the entire South East Asian nations.

On improving the air connectivity, she said that a lot is happening between SEA and India in this area and from Gaya airport, there is a need to give more connections. “We want more aircraft to go from there. Also, from Assam and Guwahati airports as from other parts of India. We want to connect with the south east Asian countries…lot of discussions are going on. These are international negotiations, so they do take time,” Sitharaman added. On a project in Bangladesh, she said that through Petrapole, the under sea linkage for Internet facility “is something on which India and Bangladesh are working”. It will improve the Internet connectivity of the north east states states.

In a bid to explore investment opportunities in the CLMV region, the Union Cabinet last year had cleared a proposal to create a Rs 500 crore project development fund to increase economic presence in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which can act as gateways for market access to China and the European Union. “Cabinet approval took a bit of a time and it is now being (done),” Sitharaman said. She said that the SPV (special purpose vehicle) will be
created in these four countries for Indian companies, who want to set up manufacturing units there.

The companies do not have to run from pillar to post for approvals or clearances “but be able to get it on a platter”,
she added. The government, she said, will set up the SPV and make sure that it will provide the facility to initially start a unit in these countries. Despite plenty of opportunities in the CLMV region, Indian businesses in these countries so far have been constricted due to limited information, infrastructure and other contingent risks. The Rs 500 crore fund would benefit India’s industrial community for business expansion and maintaining cost
competitive supply chains, besides integrating with global production networks.

When asked about the reasons for delay in setting up of the SPV, Sitharaman said: “I do not know…I can’t see any
particular reasons.” She added that the CLMV region enjoys duty benefits under the GSP scheme of the US and Europe and this is one of the big attractions for Indian firms to access those markets. Replying to a question on reducing import duty on gold, she said the Commerce Ministry always suggests its Finance counterpart for cut in the duty as it is an important raw material for the gems and jewelry sector.

On different occasions, the commerce ministry has asked for this but the Finance Ministry has to take into account the current account deficit (CAD). “We are waiting for the GST. We will have to see how it will taken in the GST,” she added.

 

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