Improving connectivity in northeastern states is the key to the success of the 'Act East' policy that seeks to strengthen India's ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said.
Ever since India transformed its 'Look East' policy to 'Act East' policy, there have been continuous efforts to make this relationship result-oriented and practical, he said at a seminar here on Saturday.
The aim of 'Act East Policy' is to promote the country's economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
It was originally conceived as an economic initiative, but has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions, including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation.
At the 'National Security Dialogue' organised at the Maharaja Sayajirao University here, Singh called for greater connectivity between the northeast states and South East Asia with the aim to build ties with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.
"Connectivity is the most crucial factor in furthering India's relations with South East Asia. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on improved airways, roadways, waterways, railways and information ways in this region," he said, adding India's northeastern states are active stakeholders in the country's Act East policy.
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"Continued development of relevant infrastructure, both within the (northeastern) states and at international borders, is necessary with a view to enhance trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people ties," Singh said.
Greater connectivity and economic integration of India's northeast with its eastern neighbours is considered a key focus area for growth and development of the region, the Union minister said.
It is in the interest of ASEAN members to develop infrastructure projects in their respective countries with India's help as the cost will be three times lower as compared to projects executed by Chinese firms, Singh said.
Talking to reporters before the seminar, he called for improving air links between ASEAN and BBIN (Bangladesh- Bhutan-India-Nepal, a sub-regional grouping) countries.
"Among the connectivity projects already envisaged is a four-lane trilateral highway linking India (Moreh in Manipur) with Mae Sot (Thailand) via Myanmar which will be expanded to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam," the minister said.
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This highway can only be sustained through movement of goods and also economic activity along the route through Myanmar. Hence, the growth of northeast states in important, he said.
For this, it is essential to focus on development and connectivity in India's northeast states itself, with new roads and rail links, opening of multi-modal transport, including river navigation, and setting up industrial corridors and 'haats' or local markets, Singh said.