India for fast-tracking ASEAN highway links

September 4th, 2012 - 10:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sept 4 (IANS) India and five other nations of the Mekong Ganga grouping -Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - Tuesday decided to fast-track key connectivity projects in Southeast Asia and firmed up new pathways of developmental cooperation in diverse areas, including food security.

“We have revitalised the forum by expanding our partnership to new areas of collaboration,” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said after the end of the ministerial meeting of the grouping.

The new areas for cooperation included health research relevant to the region and sharing of expertise on pandemic management.

“It also a forum, which has tremendous potential to become a powerful catalyst for socio-economic development in the region,” he said.

India also stressed the need to step up economic linkages between these countries.

“The economies of India and the five countries in the Mekong region depend heavily on micro, small and medium enterprises. We have, therefore, discussed various ways of bringing together the complementarities that exist in micro, small and medium enterprises in our countries.”

Bolstering India’s connectivity with the ASEAN countries figured prominently in the discussions.

“Connectivity from Vietnam to India is a strategic priority for all of us and we have asked our senior officials to work towards specific projects,” said Krishna.

“The ministers noted the recent positive developments in India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway project and other ongoing cooperation under the India-ASEAN framework to realise India-ASEAN connectivity,” said a joint statement after the talks.

India will be hosting a meeting of the Trilateral Highway Joint Task Force on Sep 10-11 here.

The ministers also agreed to expeditiously take forward matters related to the extension of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to Cambodia and Laos, and to the new proposal for the development of an India-Myanmar-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia highway, said the statement.

The Mekong-Ganga meeting was held ahead of the ASEAN-India commemorative summit in New Delhi Dec 20-21 which will mark the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-India dialogue partnership and the 10th anniversary of ASEAN-India summit-level partnership. The theme of the summit is ‘ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity’.

The summit will culminate in the adoption of the ‘ASEAN-India Vision Statement 2020′, which would map out the future direction of ASEAN-India relations.

The six-nation Mekong-Ganga Cooperation is a loose grouping that was formed in Laotian capital Vientiane in 2000 to expand cooperation in areas of tourism, culture, education and communications between India and the five Mekong river basin countries.

The ministerial meeting is among a spate of events that seeks to showcase the upward trajectory in India’s Look East policy that is acquiring momentum against the backdrop of China flexing its muscles in the region.

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