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India’s Acting East Policy to focus on timelines, economic benefits

Hanoi, Aug 25,Ranjana Narayan: With India’s Narendra Modi government keen to push connectivity with the Southeast Asian region, the emphasis is now set to shift to how the connectivity corridors when ready can be transformed into zones of vibrant economic activity that would benefit both sides.

India’s Acting East Policy to focus on timelines, economic benefits

India is keen to transform these connectivity corridors like the 3,200-km Trilateral Highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand and the Kaladan Multi-modal transit project – that would link Kolkata port with landlocked Mizoram via Myanmar – into economic highways with special economic zones set up along the way.

We are set to engage with individual countries in the neighbourhood to brainstorm on how the projects can be finished on time and where all special economic zones can be set up, an official told IANS, not wishing to be identified.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in the Vietnamese capital Sunday on a three-day visit seeking to boost ties with the key ASEAN country during which she will also inaugurate the Third Round-Table of the ASEAN-India Network of think tanks here Monday.

Speaking to the Indian diaspora here Sunday, Sushma Swaraj said the Modi government would give added impetus to India’s Look East Policy by transforming it into Acting East, signifying more action on the ground.

India has already begun the country-specific focus with the release of a report earlier this month on how connectivity projects linking Myanmar, India’s closest ASEAN neighbor, with the land-locked northeast India can be transformed into development corridors. The report, formulated by the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), suggests ways in which the connectivity corridors can be boosted and points out comparisons with how China is going about building connectivity with Southeast Asia.

India has already joined negotiations as part of the ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC), of which a meeting is set to be held in early September in the Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw.

The ACCC is held to brainstorm on ways to enhance physical connectivity in the region, especially the economic corridors that connect ASEAN and South Asia, such as the Trilateral Highway, Mekong-India Economic Corridor (Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh – Bangkok – Dawei – Chennai) and Southern Economic Corridor and also how supply chains, trade and investment and people-to-people connect can be boosted.

As these connectivity corridors require substantial investment, India and the participating countries need to work out how to transform them into booming economic and people-to-people connecting highways, the official added.

India will be holding sessions with the other countries participating in the projects to work out country-specific outlines on how to go about the connectivity corridors, the official added.

India is seeking to boost trade with the 10-member ASEAN from the current $80 billion to $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2022. The Southeast Asian nations are also keen to tap India’s vast market.

India is also seeking to boost sea connectivity through port projects linking India’s eastern and northeastern states to Myanmar, Thailand and beyond. The projects include the $8.6 billion Dawei deep sea port and industrial zone and the $120 million Kaladan multi-modal project.

The ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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