Indian PM: Trade with Asean can hit US$30b


BY B.K. SIDHU IN NEW DELHI

INDIAN Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has called for India-Asean trade to increase significantly to US$15bil over the next two years and to US$30bil by 2007.  

He told the India-Asean Business Summit in New Delhi yesterday that trade and investment were the basic building blocks of the India-Asean relationship.  

“India-Asean trade now exceeds US$10bil. But it has barely scratched the surface of its potential. We must aim high and target a turnover of US$15bil over the next two years and US$30bil by 2007,’’ said Vajpayee.  

He said companies from Asean countries were already participating in India’s ambitious infrastructure development programme.  

Malaysian construction companies are known for helping build four connecting highways in India. 

While India has a priority programme for a vast network of highways, it also “welcomes investment and technological inputs in the modernisation and expansion of its major airports and ports”.  

“India has committed US$12.5bil in this fiscal year alone for the development of national highways, airports, ports and convention centres and these are obvious opportunities for Asean in these infrastructure projects,’’ he said.  

And, the tourism and entertainment sectors remained largely unexplored, he added.  

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who is also attending the summit said in a speech: “To date, Malaysian construction companies have completed highway projects to the tune of US$320mil, and are currently implementing such projects at a value of US$1.8bil in India.’’  

Vajpayee said India’s telecommunications sector was also expanding rapidly and it was also carrying reforms in the power sector, and that some Asean businesses had already availed themselves of these opportunities.  

India also is keen to share with Asean its expertise in space technology for development applications, like natural resources mapping, flood forecasting and hydrology.  

It also wants to expand its cooperation to the manufacture and launch of remote sensing and communications satellites, both for itself and for other countries, and can offer this service to Asean at “considerably less cost than what they incur at present’’.  

On funding, Vajpayee said: “There is need to find new sources of financing, both to reduce cost of our investments and, to supplement our savings and foreign exchange reserves.  

“The Asian Bonds initiative of the Prime Minister of Thailand is therefore a timely one, which India supports.  

“We have pledged a contribution of US$1bil to the fund. If widely supported and wisely operated, this scheme can provide long-term security and stability to our financial instruments, ensure better returns on our investments and fuel faster economic growth.’’  

On regional cooperation, Vajpayee said the BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand-Economic Cooperation) provides a valuable link between South Asia and two close neighbours in South-East Asia.  

“We are working towards the Free Trade Arrangement within this organisation, which will meet at the summit level early next year to give a decisive impetus to its cooperation. 

“The Mekong-Ganga cooperation provides a framework for closer cultural and people-to-people links between the people of the ancient lands bound by these two great Asian rivers, which have created rich and majestic civilisations,’’ he said.  

There have also been new initiatives in trade and investment linkages with Singapore and Thailand; new bilateral programme with Cambodia, Loas and Vietnam.  

He also launched the Asean-India business portal that aims at enhancing business synergies between India and the Asean countries. 

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