Exclusive report by V.Sankara Subramaniam
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 -- The ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) said there is a need to find ways to facilitate and enhance people-to-people connectivity to boost trade ties and tourist arrival from India to ASEAN member countries and vice versa.
Its co-chairman, Datuk Ramesh Kodammal, said India and the 10-member bloc should work on multiple connectivity projects to further consolidate and deepen trade ties, especially via air.
He noted that India was the 8th largest source country in terms of tourism for ASEAN, where approximately 2.8 million Indian tourists visited the bloc in 2016, and the number keeps on growing.
"In the same year, 750,000 tourists from ASEAN visited India, mainly from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
"These numbers, however, do not reflect the true potentials of both ASEAN and India. It is important that we continue to find ways to facilitate and enhance people-to-people connectivity with the aim of doubling or tripling the number of Indians visiting ASEAN or ASEAN nationals coming to India," he told Bernama International News Service, here, on Thursday.
The matter was also raised by the council on the sidelines of the 4th ASEAN India Business Summit and Business Excellence Awards 2019 held on Oct 19 in Manila in the Philippines.
Ramesh said at present, no airline has a direct flight between India and the Philippines, a member of ASEAN, and as such, airline companies should tap into this potential.
Ramesh also said ASEAN and India are increasingly becoming integrated with the signing and implementation of numerous economic agreements.
"In 2003, the leaders of ASEAN and India signed the ASEAN-India Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the 2nd ASEAN India Summit.
"This Framework Agreement laid the foundation for the establishment of an ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (FTA) for trade in goods, services and investment," he added.
Two-way trade in goods between ASEAN nations and India reached US$80.8 billion in 2018, a 9.8 per cent increase from 2017.
Foreign direct investments (FDI) from India to ASEAN amounted to US$1.8 billion in 2018.
According to India’s preliminary data, FDI inflows into India from ASEAN in 2018 was US$16.41 billion.