Guwahati, Saturday, October 12, 2013
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NE connectivity with SE Asia by 2016
KALYAN BAROOAH
 JAKARTA, Oct 11 – With India proposing to wrap up transit transport agreement by 2015, the remote industrially backward North Eastern States (NES) is all set to have movement of goods and passengers with neighbouring South East Asian countries in three years’ time from now.

Come 2016, if plans are not derailed, one can hope to drive out of the North-East to neighbouring Myanmar, Thailand and beyond to Cambodia, Laos PDR and Indonesia. At least, this is what the plans look on paper.

Talking to newsmen, Secretary (East), Ashok Kantha, when asked for time schedule for free movement of cargo and passengers, with neighbouring South East Asian countries, explained that there were two aspects to the issue. “One, we must have physical connectivity and that we are doing through the trilateral highway project. It is making a reasonably good progress. We expect that trilateral highway project will cover the region by 2016. But the connectivity needs to be utilised. For that we need to put in place soft infrastructure.

The ASEAN India Transit and Transport Agreement, which the Prime Minister suggested at the ASEAN-India Summit, would cover immigration and customs facilitations ensure seamless movement of cargo across national boundaries. All these aspects would be covered and we prefer doing in a multi-lateral set up rather than discussing it with countries bilaterally, he said.

The second aspect is maritime, which is very important and for that we need have a task force and we have started discussion on these issues in forum like the ASEAN Connectivity Coordination Committee in India. The first round took place in June. The agreement we talked about should take place in 2015, so that it would be available before ASEAN connectivity takes place in 2016, when the trilateral highway is completed, he said.

Prime Minister has proposed that we start negotiations on ASEAN India Transit Transport Agreement and bring it conclusion by 2015. In addition we are setting up Maritime Transport working group, which we hope to set up soon with Myanmar, Thailand Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Prime Minister has proposed to extend the highway to Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam. We have a clear vision here in terms of linking up ASEAN. The Prime Minister talked about corridors, Special Economic Zone. We need financial and economic mechanism. This for us is an extremely important policy initiative and proposed to follow up.

“Connectivity is very important agenda for us we are making progress in terms of physical infrastructure, time has come to develop soft infrastructure on connectivity. We don’t want to wait till 2016 for the trilateral highways to come up,” the secretary said.

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