All roads lead to China

India is many leagues behind China in building connectivity to ASEAN countries

The conversation here in Kuala Lumpur turns to an exciting possibility that lies just around the bend — the ability, coming up soon, to drive several thousands kilometres all the way up to Kunming, in south-western China. A major part of the project, connecting Kunming to Bangkok, Thailand, will be completed as early as 2006. Bangkok, of course, is already connected by road and rail to Malaysia and Singapore.

Although India’s ‘Look East’ foreign policy has taken a firmer shape in recent years, tangible results are a long way off. India too has announced plans to build roads connecting its north-eastern states to peninsular Malaysia. But until recently, its eastern view was blocked by its relations with the Myanmarese junta. The result is that while China is resolutely eyeing the finish line, India is only warming up for the race. India’s historic inability to build good roads at home does not inspire much optimism in its ability to pull off this international road-building venture.

Yet, that is exactly what India must do. It must find imaginative ways to prevent its Myanmar policy come in the way of securing vital trade routes to the ASEAN countries. China’s head start need not be a cause for despair — the road link from India just needs to connect with the China’s own initiative. That will give India access both to China and south-east Asia.

Affairs like the India-ASEAN car rally are excellent ways to concentrate minds, but need to be followed up with concrete projects. Unless that happens, all roads from south-east Asia will only lead to China.

4 thoughts on “All roads lead to China”

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  2. Aiyya, I don’t like the car rally and such activities because these hardly give the local people a chance to get to know India. I think I mentioned in the earlier post how the Chinese are running clinics in Lao. The people form a more favorable impression of China.

    This time in Thailand, a friend was showing me this book titled “Study in China”. The book list universities and courses where the Thais can study and even ways to get scholarships. India could create scholarships for South East Asians. I am sure many Cambodians, Vietnamese and Thais would be interested in studying in India where English is the medium of instruction. Well we can’t build physical roads but we surely can build human resource bridges.

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