India has made enormous effort to improve connectivity in the region: FS Shringla

New Delhi, Nov 24: India is a country with global interests and takes its commitments to be a responsible international player with the utmost seriousness, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday.
In his remarks at the ‘Bharat@75: Empowering India: Today for Tomorrow’ at the Annual General Meeting and Annual Session of The Indian Chamber of Commerce, he said that New Delhi’s approach to improving global public good is evident in its approach to its neighbourhood where it has made an enormous effort to improve connectivity in the region.
Referring to Kolkata, where the meeting is being held, he said it has been a great center of trade and industry. “Its location, its port and its hinterland have made it a global city. Today, these very characteristics place it on newer cross roads.”
He said that the ASEAN countries are central to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
“Neighbourhood First and Act East are two fundamental pillars of our foreign policy. These two pillars literally intersect in this part of our country. India is linked to South East Asia by land through this region. It is linked by the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific.”
He said that lines of communication are being created through North East India to South and South East Asia, and referred to the Kaladan multi-modal transport project, which pivots on Sittwe port in Myanmar, and the Trilateral Highway project, as two notable examples.
He said five of the six rail links that connected Bangladesh and India before 1965 have been reactivated and more are being built.
“Indian is now connected to Nepal through the Jayanagar- Kurtha railway line. A Raxaul Kathmandu railway is on the anvil.”
He said people can today travel to Dhaka directly by bus, train and air. They can travel to Agartala via Bangladesh by bus. They can ship goods to Agartala multi-modally through Ashuganj and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
“Future plans to enhance connectivity include extending the Trilateral Highway to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Railways that link India and Myanmar and further to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh are all in the realm of possibility.”
He said a network of land ports and integrated check posts are being built along our land borders to upgrade the cargo transshipment and passenger transit experience.
“These will create new transport corridors that will facilitate rapid transport of goods and people between different nations in the region and different parts of India.”
Shringla said a common energy market is being created, and gave the example of the Indian grid being connected to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
“These allow India to supply 1160 MW of power to Bangladesh, about 700 MW to Nepal, and import 1.8 GW from Bhutan. Trans-national movement of electricity in the neighbourhood is thus a reality. Procedures for export and import of electricity with our neighbouring countries have also been notified,” he added.
“Hydrocarbon pipelines are being created to link India with Nepal and Bangladesh.”
He said that the MEA is trying to increase its engagement with such stakeholders and partners through a number of public diplomacy initiatives.
“I am glad to inform you that the Ministry of External Affairs is supporting a number of new Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues and Conferences with a focus on this dimension.”
“We have also commissioned a study by the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation that will "map” connectivity projects in North Eastern India and Indian supported connectivity projects in countries neighbouring this region. The idea is identify synergies and possible growth corridors,” he added.
He referred to Prime Minister Modi’s talk with Heads of Indian Missions abroad and with stakeholders in trade and commerce, and said the PM had given concrete directions on how the MEA’s network of Missions and Posts abroad can work to further the goal of promoting the three Ts – Trade, Tourism and Technology.
“An ambitious target of USD 400 billion of exports has been set up for the year 2021-22. The business of Indian diplomacy is, thus, business,” he said, and added that the MEA stands ready to help Indian businesses in any way they can. (UNI)