Swaraj underlines need for strong connectivity within ASEAN

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Emphasising the need for strong connectivity within ASEAN, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said there is a need to look at a more "functional visa regime" in the 10-member grouping.

She also stressed on the importance of the "C" of connectivity "to the five Ts" that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pursuing – Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology - for the growth of ASEAN.

"As governments, we also need to look at a more functional visa regime between us, with long-term visas for businessmen and professionals and their families," she said in her address at the Third Roundtable on ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks here.

"There is also tremendous potential for tourism between us, which is still at a fraction of what the numbers can be," she said adding that the grouping needs to integrate business and tourism sectors with better air connectivity.

"We should find ways of seamlessly encouraging our people-to-people interfaces, which have been our collective strength through centuries," Swaraj stressed.

She said the new government in India was a "strong" believer in a participative approach to bring together the members of the strategic community, industry, experts and professionals and the youth in India and ASEAN countries to further the common agenda of development, progress and prosperity.

This is particularly necessary when we assess the ambitious agenda of ASEAN and India connectivity, she said.

Swaraj recalled that her meetings with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers recently and emphasised "the importance of the 'C' of connectivity to the five 'Ts' that the government of India is pursuing – Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology".

"Connectivity implies more than geographic linkages between us and it involves also institution-to-institution and people-to-people linkages," she said.

"Even geographic connectivity becomes a stronger concept if we include a multimodal approach that integrates land, sea and air connectivity and if we can bring in the soft infrastructure to advance trade integration and facilitation through joint transit arrangements and allow easier movement of goods and people," she said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

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