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Connectivity and digitalisation are key to India-ASEAN relations: Union Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal

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NEW DELHI, 14 September 2021: Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways; and Minister of AYUSH, Government of India while addressing the LEADS 2021 ASEAN Session on India- ASEAN Connectivity Partnerships, organized by FICCI, today emphasised that connectivity and communication are of prime importance for the economic growth of countries. He also added that India should collaborate with ASEAN countries for strengthening digital infrastructure and train the talent pool with advanced digital skills.

LEADS is curated as a strategic platform for global leaders from Asia, Europe, Africa, CIS, Americas & the Pacific, to deliberate on the tenets of Leadership, economic Excellence and Adaptability to change and to build on pillars of Diversity and Sustainability.

The Minister further stated that physical connectivity between India and the neighbouring South Asian countries will enable small and medium sized enterprises in the border areas to explore new business opportunities. He also said that said there should be greater impetus to accelerate our efforts to integrate a digital realm and enable more seamless flow of data services and payments. India’s engagement with ASEAN should therefore be driven by and focused on expanding digital connectivity between the two regions given India’s solid infrastructure and booming digital economy.

“We need to realise that India and the ASEAN region are fast-growing markets and boast of a young population that is digitally connected. Apart from the connectivity of goods and trade it is also important for both regions to explore ways to enhance digital activity,” he said.

Sonowal added that the Govt of India has been making efforts to turn India into a global data hub. “Through various policies and reforms. India’s data centre is expected to add 560mw by 2023. As the data centre landscape continues to go up, the industry is expected to grow exponentially,” he noted.

Sonowal also stressed on establishing connectivity between India and ASEAN to enable the people-to-people connectivity through business and tourism. “We need to focus on greater air connectivity and enhance tourism in unexplored areas of the ASEAN countries. We need to speed up the regional connectivity project with ASEAN countries to give boost to a bilateral trade

Speaking at the event, Devin Narang, Country Head-India, Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company mentioned that Connectivity is the high-speed catalyst to facilitate trade, logistics and customs integration between the two regions for seamless movement of goods and services.

Harshavardhan Neotia, Co-Chair, India-Singapore CEO Forum, Past President, FICCI and Chairman, Ambuja Neotia Group said that it is necessary to overcome the missing links in transportation, the lack of interoperability, and infrastructure gaps between two regions, to create a functional single market of India and ASEAN.

Mridula Iyer, Managing Director and Head of Treasury & Trade Solutions, CITI, India, shared that fintech and start-ups have played a crucial role in building India- ASEAN digital connectivity as large number of Indian start-ups are foraying into ASEAN market.

Dr Ruth Banomyong, Dean- Faculty of Commerce & Accountancy, Thammasat University, Thailand suggested that Visa exemptions and cultural exchanges will be crucial for enhancing people-to-people connectivity between India and ASEAN.

Dr Robert Yap, Executive Chairman, YCH Group, Singapore, said that India and ASEAN need to work together for building resilient supply chains for enhancing trade connectivity.

The session was concluded with the following key outcomes:

The physical connectivity between India and Neighbouring south-east Asian countries will enable small and medium-sized enterprises to explore new business opportunities.
An ASEAN Visa (like Schengen) and cultural exchanges will be crucial for enhancing people-to-people connectivity between India and ASEAN.
Tech Savvy young population and explosion of e-Commerce are creating huge opportunities for creation of robust digital infrastructure between India and ASEAN.

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