India must focus on improving connectivity along the ancient Silk Route in order to establish itself as a hub for Asia-Europe trade, a senior UN official said.
"South Asia can again be a hub of economic activities through improved connectivity, as it was in the ancient times," said Nagesh Kumar, director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)'s South and South-West Asia Office.
"Reviving the Asian trade route would put South Asia at the centre of Europe and East Asia," he said, calling on India to explore the full potential of the region.
He said the eastern side of the Silk Road is developing fast with India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway along with the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement.
The time has come for India to work on the western side of the Silk Road, he said.
"There is a very interesting proposal of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) linking South Asia and Central Asia through port of Bandar Abas or Chhabbar port in Iran.
"UN-ESCAP has also proposed extension of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad Container Train Corridor to Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka and Yangon, using existing operational interconnections along the Trans-Asian Railway Routes," he told PTI after addressing the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development held in Singapore from 22to 24 November.
"These two corridors had the potential to make South Asia a hub of trade of Europe and Central Asia with East Asia, benefiting particularly the landlocked countries in South Asia such as Afghanistan and those in Central Asia, emerge as bridges linked up through multimodal routes," Kumar said.
Kumar also underlined India's strong relationship with UN-ESCAP, since its establishment in 1947 and as the host of the grouping's South and South-West Asia (UNESCAP-SSWA) Office since 2011.
India also hosts UN-ESCAP's Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) since 1977, which assists the group's member states in capacity building for transfer and development of technology.
UN-ESCAP-SSWA fosters regional cooperation between the 10 countries in the subregion for inclusive and sustainable development.
India's development experience and technologies can be valuable for other developing countries. These offices are striving to facilitate the sharing of experiences and knowledge between India and other developing countries in South Asia and beyond, he said.
"We have very intensive cooperation programmes with South Asian countries which are going to grow more," he added.
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