Connectivity key to India’s progress: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi, March 2  Connectivity is the key to India meeting its promises of growth, employment and prosperity, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday.

“Connectivity today is central to the globalisation process,” Sushma Swaraj said while delivering the inaugural address of the three-day Raisina Dialogue, a global conclave on geo-politics and geo-economics organised by the external affairs ministry and the Observer Research Foundation.

“Indeed, the last many decades have witnessed the restoration and modernisation of connectivity as an integral element of the continent’s revival,” she said.

“Where India itself is concerned, whether it is domestic, external or regional, connectivity will determine how we meet our promise of growth, employment and prosperity.”

With the theme of “Connecting Asia” this year, the flagship conference called Raisina Dialogue 2016 here is designed to explore and examine the prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world.

Over 450 participants from around 40 countries are participating in this year’s conference.

Sushma Swaraj said that in the contemporary world, connectivity has very diverse manifestations.

“Given the nature of the development process, it should come as no surprise that we are addressing a broad spectrum of challenges at different levels of complexity, all at the same time,” she said.

“Some are within the country, others just beyond our borders and the rest in the global commons. We are simultaneously seeking to overcome basic problems of physical connectivity, even as we endeavour to leapfrog and strengthen the digital one.”

Stating that rivalry for influence among nations today is often expressed in terms of their competition in infrastructure connectivity, Sushma Swaraj said many major initiatives underway, especially in Asia, focus on this very aspect.

“While resources and capabilities drive the pace of connectivity, policy choices can be a critical factor. Even in South Asia, we have seen that good neighbourly ties can have a strong beneficial effect on building road and rail connections, opening waterways or supplying energy,” she said.

Stating that the fact that the new government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy began with its very inauguration, the minister said this underlined a strong commitment to connectivity, commerce and contacts with the larger region.

With Bangladesh, she said, initiatives in rail, road, border crossings, waterways, coastal shipping and energy have built on the settlement of the land and maritime boundary.

“With Bhutan, our longstanding energy cooperation has reached much higher levels with the acceleration in ongoing projects,” Sushma Swaraj said.

“Similarly, a new sense of urgency pervades three major projects that would make our connection to South East Asia a reality – the Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan Multimodal project and the Rih-Tedim road,” she said.

In Nepal, she said India is are deeply involved in the reconstruction efforts after last year’s devastating earthquake and has made a renewed commitment to building the Terai roads as also the inauguration of a new transmission line.

In Sri Lanka, she said, India’s footprint extended from the rebuilding of railway lines to the clearing of ports and construction of power plants.

In Afghanistan, India played a significant role in the construction of the Zeranj-Delaram road, Pul-e-Khumri transmission line or Salma dam, Sushma Swaraj said.

“Looking beyond, our efforts to work with Iran on the Chahbahar Port are getting underway. Perhaps less well known are other initiatives under discussion to cooperate with Iran as a transit corridor to Central Asia and Russia,” she said.

The minister said that the vast sea space to India’s south meant that “connectivity is as much maritime as it is territorial”.

“The oceans around India and the associated blue economy link security and prosperity as strongly in the maritime domain as they do in other spheres,” she said.

Sushma Swaraj also stressed on cyber connectivity, saying it is of growing importance in an increasingly digital world.

“It is connected to the question of how the contemporary global order should be governed and regulated so that it remains a free medium but yet allows Governments to protect their citizens,” she said.