Connecting India to Southeast Asia

Connecting India to Southeast Asia



Union Minister Nitin Gadkari states that the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is around 70% complete. To improve commerce, economic, health, education, and tourist linkages between the three nations, India, Thailand, and Myanmar are building a 1,400 km-long roadway that connects the country with Southeast Asia by land. 

What is the Look East Policy of India?

  • Evolution From Look East Policy: The Act East policy is the evolution of India’s Look East policy, which was started in 1991 and has since been discontinued. It stands for development and a more practical strategy to strengthen India’s interaction with Southeast Asian countries.
  • Strategic and economic ties: The Act East policy seeks to forge strong ties with Southeast Asian nations on both a strategic and economic level. It acknowledges the region’s economic potential and geopolitical importance and works to improve collaboration in several areas, including trade, investment, infrastructure, and connectivity.
  • Focus on projects and results: In contrast to the Look East policy, the Act East policy places more of a focus on tangible projects and activities that are outcome-based. Through cooperative projects and mutually beneficial results, it aspires to go beyond empty rhetoric and forge real partnerships with Southeast Asian countries.
  • commerce and connectivity: The Act East programme aims to increase commerce and connectivity between India and Southeast Asian nations. To enable the flow of goods, services, and people, it places a strong emphasis on the development of physical infrastructure, including roads, ports, and air links. By lowering obstacles and encouraging economic integration, it also seeks to improve commercial relations. The 1,360 km (850 mi) long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT Highway), which is being built as part of India’s Look East strategy, will connect Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar.
  • Regional Power and Counterweight to China: India is to be positioned as a regional force and a counterweight to China’s expanding influence in Southeast Asia through the Act East policy. India wants to raise its profile and have more influence in regional issues, hence it is attempting to do so by fortifying its connections with Southeast Asian countries.
  • Engagement with ASEAN: India’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are given particular attention by the Act East policy. Through greater political, economic, and cultural collaboration, it aims to expand India’s participation with ASEAN. In 1996, India joined ASEAN as a full dialogue partner, and since then, it has built several institutional frameworks for cooperation.

What is the need for India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway?

  • A project under India’s Look East strategy, the IMT Trilateral Highway aims to link Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar. It is a 1,360-kilometre (850 mi) long highway that is presently being built.
  • Increasing trade and business between India, ASEAN nations, and Southeast Asia as a whole is the IMT Trilateral Highway’s main goal.
  • By creating a land connection between India and Thailand, the highway is anticipated to improve economic integration in the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area and lower transportation costs.
  • To create the East-West Economic Corridor, India has suggested extending the IMT Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
  • As a result of the connection offered by the IMT Trilateral Highway and the East-West Economic Corridor, India and ASEAN nations will be able to cooperate more and trade more.
  • To further improve trade and transport infrastructure, the IMT Trilateral Highway will connect with river ports being built at Kalay (Kalaymyo) and Monywa along the Chindwin River.

What is  ASEAN–India Free Trade Area and how is this highway going to benefit AIFTA? 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s ten member states and the Republic of India have signed the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), which is a regional free trade agreement. On October 8, 2003, in Bali, Indonesia, the inaugural framework agreement was signed. On August 13, 2009, the final agreement was signed following multiple rounds of discussions.

  • By promoting increased communication and trade between the participating nations, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is a crucial infrastructure project that is expected to contribute to the growth of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA).
  • Enhanced Connectivity: By reducing transportation costs and times for commodities exchanged between India, Myanmar, and Thailand, the highway will considerably boost connectivity between these nations. It will encourage simpler trade integration inside the AIFTA region by promoting smoother mobility of commodities, services, and people.
  • Trade Expansion: The Trilateral Highway’s enhanced connectivity and transportation effectiveness are anticipated to increase bilateral and multilateral trade between India, Myanmar, and Thailand. The highway will create new market opportunities, enabling companies to investigate and increase trade in several industries, including manufacturing, services, and agriculture.
  • Development of Border Areas: Border regions’ socioeconomic growth will be facilitated by the Trilateral Highway, which will pass through several isolated and impoverished border regions. The increased connection and infrastructure will draw investments and encourage inclusive growth, which will lower poverty and raise living standards in the surrounding areas.