India is now looking to expand the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, in order to increase connectivity of the region.
ASEAN Briefing reports that India is fast-tracking the completion of the expanded India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said recently that the route should be further expanded from 1,400 km to 3,200 km in order to link the route with Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Presently, the route links Moreh in the northeast of India with Mae Sot in Western Thailand via Myanmar. Most of the highway, which was first planned about 15 years ago, has been completed, but some sections are currently being upgraded.
As part of India’s foreign policy under the Look East Policy and subsequent Act East policy, an important goal of the highway project is to improve trading relationships between ASEAN and India.
In 2009, ASEAN and India signed a trade agreement, the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement, creating one of the world’s largest free trade zones. Expanding the Trilateral Highway to more parts of Southeast Asia is expected to open up a number of trade and investment opportunities under that agreement.
Rail is another important aspect of ASEAN’s growing connectivity with other regions, and Thailand is presently working to expedite the connection between Lao and Thai rail systems.
Other projects to boost connectivity to and within ASEAN include the Southeast Asia Regional Economic Corridor and Connectivity Project, which The World Bank is funding to boost climate-resilient regional commerce in northern Laos.