NEW DELHI: Urging leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India to renew discussions on an air transport agreement, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Jan 25) that both sides stand to benefit from greater connectivity.
In his closing speech at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit plenary session held at the Hotel Taj Diplomatic Enclave in New Delhi, Mr Lee said that ASEAN stands ready to work with India on the ASEAN-India Air Transport Agreement (AIATA).
“ASEAN appreciates India’s contributions to improving land connectivity, in particular, the extension of the trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway which will go all the way to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam,” said Mr Lee.
“Many visitors will not be able to travel overland to India, so we have to work towards greater air connectivity.”
Currently, India accounts for only 3 per cent of tourist arrivals to the ASEAN region. Mr Lee said that with the AIATA in place, it will enhance people-to-people flows across the region and help both Indian and ASEAN carriers tap on new and emerging markets, especially in the areas of business, investment and tourism.
IMPROVING LIVES AND LIVELIHOOD THROUGH INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY
Mr Lee also called for greater digital connectivity, and for innovative technology to be used to improve people's lives. He noted that India has “made remarkable and rapid progress in the adoption of digital technologies”.
In particular, Mr Lee said there are significant opportunities for projects like Aadhaar - India’s national digital identification system - to be harmonised with similar systems in ASEAN countries.
A key objective of Singapore’s chairmanship of the bloc this year is to develop an ASEAN Smart Cities Network to drive regional smart city development. Since India has its own programme to develop 100 smart cities, Mr Lee said he looks forward to the collaboration between both sides to “establish a successful and meaningful smart cities network”.
Mr Lee also called for deeper economic integration between ASEAN and India. He pointed out how the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - a pact between ASEAN and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand - will lower business costs and benefit all participating countries.
“ASEAN and India should work together to ensure the conclusion of the negotiations in 2018 so that the benefits can be realised earlier,” said Mr Lee, adding that Singapore will do its best to facilitate negotiations.
Mr Lee and the other ASEAN leaders will attend India’s 69th Republic Day Parade as chief guests on Friday.