India’s Economic Links with Southeast Asian Countries have Experienced Rapid Progress

Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar

The Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (NER) and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar has said that over the last two decades, economic and strategic connections with Southeast Asia has increased manifold.

During the 158TH Annual General Meeting of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry Kolkata on 28SEP12, Shri Ghatowar said the total trade between India-ASEAN has grown from $21.29 billion in 2005-06 to $57.89 billion in 2010-11, clocking compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.14%.

During the talk titled “Look East – North East and Beyond (Expectations from West Bengal)”, Shri Ghatowar referred to the North East Vision 2020 document released by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2008, which recommends a structural transformation of the region in terms of development to catch up with the rest of the country. Among all the various issues explored such as poverty reduction and strengthening infrastructure, the document sets the goal of shifting the average growth rate of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) per annum from the present 7.5% to 12.95 %.

In that regard, Ghatowar sees emerging business opportunities in Bangladesh with focus on East and North East India as important areas in which to achieve the targets set in the document. He speficially views the NER as the main hub of India’s economic development with both Bangladesh and Southeast Asia due to the contiguous land borders between the two regions.

Being a landlocked region, the NER is deprived of some natural advantages of economic geography, which are enjoyed by coastal areas. As a result, collaborating with Bangladesh on various projects–including the establishment of Border Haats, development of seven Integrated Border Check Posts as well as generous market access by for Bangladesh imports (a zero basic customs duty for all items)–aims to provide added incentive for deepened economic relations.

Despite more than doubling total trade with the ASEAN region, time will tell if increased investment in India’s NER region will provide additional gains over the next five years as India struggles with its own growth as well as violence in the region.

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