Bid to build Asean road link

As Asean leaders gather in the capital to celebrate 25-years of India's ties with the South East Asian regional bloc, the Narendra Modi-government is taking stock of its pan-Asian highway and maritime projects, dubbed unofficially as the "Spice Route" and meant to rival China's "Silk Road" or the One-Belt-One-Road plan.

By Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
  • Published 26.01.18
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Narendra Modi with the Asean heads of states in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI 

New Delhi: As Asean leaders gather in the capital to celebrate 25-years of India's ties with the South East Asian regional bloc, the Narendra Modi-government is taking stock of its pan-Asian highway and maritime projects, dubbed unofficially as the "Spice Route" and meant to rival China's "Silk Road" or the One-Belt-One-Road plan.

India is planning a $1-billion line of credit to promote sea, air and road connectivity projects with Asean.

The government is also considering a corpus of $77 million to develop manufacturing hubs in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Three years behind schedule, because of land acquisition problems, the plan for a 3,200km highway envisages a modern motorway that will link Delhi to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam through one spur and Singapore through another.

"We hope to complete our part of the highway project which links us to Myanmar for starters and then after the completion of a few patches with Thai expressways," said top officials of the ministry of highway, road transport, ports and shipping.

China has caught global attention with its bold plan for New Silk Route, which it calls the One Belt, One Road initiative, seeking to recreate old trade routes through massive infrastructure building in India's neighbourhood.

The rival plan of India and Asean, which has the backing of multinational agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, and countries such as Japan, is in some ways a recreation of an older plan to build Asian Highways Number 1 to link India via Myanmar with Thailand, with a spur going through Bangladesh.

Last year, in an interview to The Telegraph, Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for highways, road transport, ports and shipping had said "We will be pumping in Rs 5,000 crore into the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, building a highway link from Meghalaya to Myanmar via Manipur." More money is being pumped in through the ministry of external affairs' development partnership to complete missing links and refurbish an "India-Myanmar Friendship Highway".