Union home minister Rajnath Singh was addressing the 4th India-ASEAN Expo and Summit in New Delhi. Credit: EastMojo Image

New Delhi: Even as there was satisfactory headway on the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project, the union home minister Rajnath Singh has stressed on the need of expediting work towards its further extension.

“India is currently working with ASEAN on multiple connectivity projects, through land, water and air. Exploring opportunities through connectivity projects will help India remove physical impediments of trade with ASEAN countries and further integrate the two regions for better economic and security relations,” Singh said in his valedictory address at the fourth India-ASEAN Expo and Summit here on Friday.

“While we have made some progress in implementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, the possible extension of the trilateral highway to Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam needs to be pushed,” he added.

Referring to the ongoing work on the ambitious Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, the minister informed the gathering of ASEAN ministers and trade delegations that it would provide an alternative route through Myanmar for transportation of goods to the Northeast region of India.

Union minister Rajnath Singh seeks the 10-member groupings’ support in India’s fight against terrorism.

“The Northeast being a major land bridge to ASEAN nations, enhanced connectivity will also ensure that economic integration and development of the Northeast region of India. India and Myanmar are also in the process of setting up border haats (markets) at their respective borders to facilitate trade and people to people connect,” the minister reported.

Four Northeast frontier estates of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram together lie along the over 1,600 km boundary with the Southeast Asian nation. On January 4 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the integrated check post (ICP) at Moreh.

In addition, India also shares a long maritime boundary with Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal.

Over the past decade, trade relations between India and ASEAN have improved significantly. The total bilateral trade between the two regions increased more than three-fold from $21 billion in 2005-06 to $81.33 billion in 2017-18. The region also emerged as India’s second largest trading partner in 2017-18, with a share of 10.58% in the world’s fastest-growing major economy’s overall trade.

Earlier in his speech, the home minister condemned the suicide bomb attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in the Kashmir Valley that left over 40 CRPF personnel dead. He sought the 10-member groupings’ support in the country’s fight against terrorism.

“This summit must acknowledge the fact and ensure that the soil of any country should not be used for propagating terrorism,” emphasised Singh.

The recent past has especially witnessed increased cooperation between India and Myanmar in the area of counter-terrorism.

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