"We are presently working with the governments of Myanmar and Thailand to develop the trilateral highway which hopefully will be completed soon," Sharma said at a CII function. (Agencies)
The idea of the highway - from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Myanmar - was conceived at the trilateral ministerial meeting on transport linkages in Yangon in April 2002. It represents a significant step in establishing connectivity between India and South East Asian countries.
Myanmar is source of one-third of India's imports in pulses and one-fifth in timber. Emphasizing on the need to enhance road, air and sea connectivity, Sharma said that India is also working to develop the Kaladan multi-modal transport corridor which comprises waterway and roadway.
Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project will connect the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe port in Myanmar by sea; it will then link Sittwe to Mizoram via river and road transport.
Sharma said the project and the transport corridor will connect these countries (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Mayanmar) with the North-Eastern part of India. The government is also looking at connecting India and Myanmar through a sea link, he added.
He said, "Connectivity by air, road and sea in important. We have entire north east India which is progressing but still lagging behind the rest of the country because of geography, constraints of infrastructure."
Sharma was speaking at the CII's Business Conclave of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Mayanmar. Further, the minister said that trade between India and the four South East Asian nations is "well below potential". The two-way commerce between India and these nations stood at USD 8.5 billion in 2012-13.
"We need to do more. We have to look at not only increasing economic relation but deepening and diversifying the priority sectors which hold potential like IT, agri, healthcare, oil and gas and textile," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, representatives of these four countries sought investments from India in sectors like IT, infrastructure, energy, power and agro processing.
"We have opened our doors for India. We welcome you," Cambodian Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning, Hou Taing Eng said.
India main exports to these countries include pharma, machinery, vehicles, plastics and cotton while imports are pulses, rubber, wood, mineral oil and spices.
"We are presently working with the governments of Myanmar and Thailand to develop the trilateral highway which hopefully will be completed soon," Sharma said at a CII function.