New Delhi, May 12 IANS | 4 months ago

Seeking to forge closer connectivity with the Asean grouping, India is looking at a bus service between Imphal in Manipur and Mandalay in Myanmar, and another road connection linking Mizoram with Myanmar, a top official said Monday.


Addressing an international conference on cross-border connectivity here, Anil Wadhwa, secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said a free trade agreement (FTA) with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on services and investments would be ready for inking during the meeting of their economic ministers later this year.

An FTA with the Asean on trade and goods was inked in 2009.

"Under the East Asia Summit, negotiations are progressing towards the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Trade volumes between Asean and India, Asean and Japan, Japan and India, and India and the US have been seeing incremental increase," he said.

Listing the connectivity projects with the Asean, Wadhwa said completion of the trilateral highway linking Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar was an "immediate priority".

Acceleration of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project that seeks to connect Kolkata port with Sittwe port in Myanmar by sea, as well as a river and road link, are also immediate priority, according to a press statement.

Wadhwa said that in addition to the initial commitment of 160 km on the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemiyo (TKK) road, India is committed to another 120 km on the Kalewa-Yargyi sector and upgradation of 71 bridges on the TKK section of the trilateral highway.

"The feasibility study for the Kalewa-Yargyi sector is currently under way. We are looking at an Imphal-Mandalay bus service and technical discussions are to begin.

"We also have an MoU with Myanmar for a project on the Rhi Tiddim Road. The Kaladan Multimodal Project in Myanmar includes road and inland waterway links to Sittwe port, as also the potential for collaboration in developing an industrial zone or SEZ in Sittwe."

Wadhwa said India was seeking to strengthen the rail network in the northeast and added that funding from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank would be welcome in this.

He said the "Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) has already done a study projecting the potential for the sea-link between Dawei, in southeastern Myanmar, and Chennai".

"Maritime connectivity can be strengthened further between India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and production chains established from the Mekong region to the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Mumbai-Bangaluru-Chennai Industrial Corridor, in addition to linking up with ports on the eastern seaboard of India such as Ennore, Vizag, Sagar etc.

"Backend linkages through coastal shipping networks and riverine navigation will be important in this context so as to generate sustainable volumes of trade related traffic," he said.

Wadhwa said the joint working committee on maritime connectivity would seek to establish a maritime link between India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

India has also proposed an "open sky policy" on cargo on a quid pro quo basis to the Asean.

"This would help increase trade, especially in perishable commodities," he said.

Wadhwa said Japan was "already partnering in some of the important connectivity infrastructure projects in India, including the northeast.

"We should be able to define further specific steps for increasing this collaboration with our partners."

(Posted on 12-05-2014)

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