New Delhi: India on Monday stressed the need for strengthening of maritime connectivity with Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and called for an `open sky policy` on quid pro quo basis to increase trade with ASEAN.
During an international conference on cross-border connectivity, Secretary (West) Anil Wadhwa said, "We are in the process of finalising the recommendations which our Ministry of Shipping would take forward in their discussions with the ASEAN countries for a Joint Working Group on Maritime Connectivity."
Significantly, the conference is being held in the backdrop of increasing tension between China and Vietnam over the territorial dispute in the high seas.
Expressing concern over the stand-off, India asserted that "freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be impeded" and called for "cooperation in ensuring security of sea-lanes and strengthening of maritime security".
Wadhwa also said a free trade agreement (FTA) with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on services and investments would be ready for inking during the meeting of their economic ministers later this year. An FTA with the ASEAN on trade and goods was inked in 2009.
"Maritime connectivity can be strengthened further between India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and production chains established from the Mekong region to the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Mumbai-Bangaluru-Chennai Industrial Corridor...
"We have also proposed an Open Sky Policy on Cargo on a quid pro quo basis to the ASEAN. This would help to increase trade, especially in perishable commodities," he said.