India unveiled a $1 billion line of credit on Saturday to boost projects that enhance connectivity with ASEAN nations even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a highway linking India with Myanmar and Thailand would be completed by 2018.
Connectivity, both physical and digital, was a centrepiece of Modi’s address at the ASEAN-India Summit. He also pointed to the central role played by science, technology and innovation in cooperation and economic partnership between India and the grouping.
“Connectivity is the pathway to shared prosperity,” he said in his opening statement at the hour-long meeting chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“We also propose to commit a line of credit of $1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN.”
The 3,200-km Trilateral Highway project, which connects India with Myanmar and Thailand, is “making good progress and should be completed by 2018”, Modi said.
The Indian government has given a major push to the highway as part of its “Act East” policy to improve connectivity with the landlocked northeastern states that share borders with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, told reporters that connectivity was a key theme of the ASEAN-India Summit and the members of the grouping suggested the Trilateral Highway should be extended Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
ASEAN leaders further suggested that India’s plans for connectivity should be aligned with those of the grouping.
Modi also unveiled another initiative to enhance ties between ASEAN nations and India’s northeast – an ASEAN Studies Centre to be created at the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, which he described as “our gateway to the East”.
Science, technology and innovation form a “vital pillar of our cooperation and support our economic partnership” and India will enlarge the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from $1 million to $5 million, he said.
“We also intend to set up an ASEAN-India Innovation Platform to facilitate commercialisation of low cost technologies, technology transfer and collaborative R&D projects.”
India’s cooperative project in space, to be located in Vietnam, is making “concrete progress”, Modi said as he offered New Delhi’s indigenously developed GPS-Aided Geo Augmented Navigation or GAGAN services to ASEAN members. Wadhwa said the system could help in the aviation, maritime, highways, railways, banking and security sectors.