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Connectivity and digitalisation key to India-ASEAN relations: Sarbananda Sonowal

New Delhi : Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday said that connectivity and communication were of prime importance for the economic growth of countries.

Addressing the LEADS 2021 ASEAN Session on India- ASEAN Connectivity Partnerships, organized by FICCI, he said India should collaborate with ASEAN countries for strengthening digital infrastructure and training the talent pool with advanced digital skills.

LEADS is curated as a strategic platform for global leaders from Asia, Europe, Africa, CIS, Americas and the Pacific, to deliberate on the tenets of Leadership, economic Excellence and Adaptability to change and to build on pillars of Diversity and Sustainability.

The Minister said physical connectivity between India and the neighbouring South Asian countries would enable small and medium sized enterprises in the border areas to explore new business opportunities.

‘There should be greater impetus to accelerate our efforts to integrate a digital realm and enable more seamless flow of data services and payments. India’s engagement with ASEAN should therefore be driven by and focused on expanding digital connectivity between the two regions given India’s solid infrastructure and booming digital economy,’ he said.

“We need to realise that India and the ASEAN region are fast-growing markets and boast of a young population that is digitally connected. Apart from the connectivity of goods and trade it is also important for both regions to explore ways to enhance digital activity,” Mr Sonowal said.

Stating that Government of India had been making efforts to turn India into a global data hub, he said, “Througeh various policies and reforms. India’s data centre is expected to add 560mw by 2023. As the data centre landscape continues to go up, the industry is expected to grow exponentially.”

Mr Sonowal also stressed on establishing connectivity between India and ASEAN to enable the people-to-people connectivity through business and tourism.

“We need to focus on greater air connectivity and enhance tourism in unexplored areas of the ASEAN countries. We need to speed up the regional connectivity project with ASEAN countries to give boost to a bilateral trade.’

Speaking at the event, Devin Narang, Country Head-India, Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company, said connectivity was the high-speed catalyst to facilitate trade, logistics and customs integration between the two regions for seamless movement of goods and services.

Harshavardhan Neotia, Co-Chair, India-Singapore CEO Forum, Past President, FICCI and Chairman, Ambuja Neotia Group, said that it was necessary to overcome the missing links in transportation, the lack of interoperability, and infrastructure gaps between two regions, to create a functional single market of India and ASEAN.

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