For India, the Indo-Pacific has acquired growing significance in recent times, said Riva Ganguly Das

Connectivity is necessary in realizing our common goal of a prosperous Indo-Pacific said India’s Secretary East Riva Ganguly Das on Wednesday.

“Connectivity is necessary in realizing our common goal of a prosperous Indo-Pacific. Our Indo-Pacific vision builds on India’s Act East policy and the doctrine of SAGAR announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and 2015 respectively,” the Secretary East stated.

Delivering her keynote address at a Webinar organized by Australian Consulate General in Kolkata and a think-tank Asian Confluence, Das underlined that India's vision for Indo-Pacific region is intertwined with its commitment to unleash the potential of North-East in trade, tourism and regional connectivity.

Secretary East called the Northeastern region of the country as a vital link between two fundamental pillars of India’s foreign policy.

The North-East is India's gateway to East and Southeast Asia and it is indeed a region where

'Neighborhood First' and 'Act East' converge and complement each other, she added.

For India the Indo-Pacific has acquired growing significance in recent times, she said.

A very significant part of our trade also passes through the Indo-Pacific. For instance last year our bilateral trade with ASEAN was $87 billion, with China $82 billion, with Japan and Korea together it $38 billion and with US over $88 biillion, with Australia about $13 billion.

She mentioned that India’s Indo-Pacific vision envisages a free and open Indo-Pacific region which embraces all nations in the region and beyond in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.

Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative (IPOI) envisages practical implementation of this vision with its seven pillars of collaboration and cooperation with connectivity being one such pillar, the Secretary East said.

Promotion of connectivity in the region has certain prerequisites to make such activities sustainable from all angles Das noted. Common and universally applicable rules based world order that upholds sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality of all nations is at the centre of this, she added.

Stating that given its geography, connectivity comes naturally to India, Das said in the last few years there has been a renewed focus on connectivity, both within India and as well as with partner countries.

“Our PM has noted that the northeast has the potential to become India’s growth engine. Focus of our government has been on connectivity through improvement of infrastructure in the region be it highways, laying of rail tracks or upgradation of airports or other forms of connectivity,” she recalled.

The government is also working to complete all connectivity projects as part of India’s development partnership in our extended neighbourhood, the Secretary East mentioned.

She informed that the major connectivity projects in the region undertaken by India include the Kaladan project, an East-West Corridor connecting northeast with India and Thailand, the Rhi-Tiddim road in Myanmar, construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, the Biratnagar Integrated Check-post with Nepal, road projects and power transmission lines in Nepal, restoration of pre-1965 train lines with Bangladesh etc.

Incidentally the train lines in Bangladesh proved very useful during the pandemic, she highlighted.

“Since, the trade with land routes was very difficult, the railway system helped to seamless trade through the border with minimum human contact and trade through railways has taken off between the two countries,” Das said.

Noting that India is working to build connectivity with Andaman and Aceh of Indonesia focused on Sabang Port, she said the project announced in 2018, is currently a work in progress.

Connectivity between Ranong Port in Thailand and Vizag-Chennai-Kolkata is also being explored. MoUs for these proposals were signed in 2019. Completion of these projects will have a far reaching impact on Northeast and Southeast Asia.

India-Nepal trade routes remained robust during the pandemic, after an initial slowdown in 2020, the trade flows between India and Nepal quickly picked up and steadily began to exceed long-term averages. Road and air connectivity with Nepal has been robust and India has also been investing in building railway linkages.