Unmindful of China's displeasure over India's involvement with nations in its backyard, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday announced a proposal to link South East Asian nations through a highway, presumably over the sea.
Greater physical connectivity between India and Asean remains our strategic objective, Dr Singh told the 9th India-Asean summit in Bali. "There are several proposals under consideration with regard to land and sea connectivity. These include the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, its extension to Laos and Cambodia, and the development of a new highway also linking Vietnam."
In this regard, he said, "We also have a study on a Mekong-India Economic Corridor conducted by the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia which proposes the linking of corridors in the peninsular, and possibly the north east, regions of India with the East Asian region."
The connectivity will not just take the physical highway, but also e-route. India has already offered to assist in the master plan on Asean information and connectivity technology and in particular on the establishment of an e-network in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam for tele-medicine and tele-education.
Highlighting other areas of cooperation Asean, Dr Singh said India's department of space has revised its proposal for a five-year project for establishing a tracking and reception station and data processing facility for Asean nations and btraining of their personnel.
Welcoming India's growing cooperation with Asean nations on security issues, and its association with Asean-led forums, Dr Singh said these moves have focused on maritime security, counter-terrorism, training, exercises and disaster management.
Pointing out that India's trade with Asean has increased by 30 per cent in 2010-11 and has crossed the 50 billion US dollar mark., Dr Singh said such a rate of growth should make it possible achieve the trade target of 70 billion US dollar by 2012 and sought the early conclusion of a commercially meaningful services and investment agreement by March 2012.
Read the full text of the speech here