Countries in South Asia and South East Asia should liberalise air, land, sea and digital technology connectivities to boost trade and economic relations, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said today. Addressing the Institute of South Asian Studies’ International Conference on South Asia, the Minister said the countries in the two regions should maximise opportunities to increase connectivity via air, land, sea and digital technology.
“Currently, 90 per cent of trade between South Asia and South east Asia are by sea,” he said, urging the regions to fully maximise the opportunities of maritime connectivity. “So, there is still much hope for investment in port infrastructure. It will take time but make sure we fully exploit the sea between us,” said Balakrishnan, calling for investments in related infrastructure. In case of land, he noted India’s initiative of 3,200-km trilateral link with Myanmar and Thailand and China’s high speed rail to Central Asia and South East Asia. On air connectivity, the minister calls for connecting aviation centres across the two regions.
“There are so many existing airports, that can and should be upgraded,” he said, adding that airlines were available. He, however, pointed out protectionism of national airlines. Noting that it was a matter of policy to protect an airline, he called on the states in South Asia and South East Asia to understand that the interest of country outweighs interest of the national airlines. “But we will continue to make this point that liberalising the airspace and air connectivity within and between our regions makes long-term economic sense,” he said. “The future is bright for both South Asia and South East Asia but there is some homework that we need to do,” said Balakrishnan, stressing the need for good sense and good will to achieve it.