Indian Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, while addressing the ASEAN India Connectivity Summit, said India was exploring the possibility of connecting Association of South East Asia (ASEAN) countries through cruise tourism. Gadkari said he already had talks with companies from Singapore on cruise connectivity and they were keen on exploring the option.
“We plan to boost cruise tourism from 80 ships per year to 900 per year. Cruises from India can start from Mumbai or Cochin and can go to Thailand, Philippines and Cambodia, saving Indian tourists time and money for specially travelling to Singapore to enjoy cruises,” said Gadkari, adding that cruise potential will be explored on public private partnership model too. The minister also added that India has already proposed a SGD1 billion-line of credit to promote ASEAN connectivity through road, air and waterways.
Gadkari, who was addressing the summit jointly organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and ASEAN India Centre, said, “The ASEAN India maritime transport cooperation agreement is being negotiated… An Asian India civil aviation task force has been established to see optimisation of air connectivity.” India has also agreed to establish a maritime transport working group of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to examine the feasibility of shipping networks, he added.
He stressed that with the trilateral highway being constructed by India in Myanmar and Thailand, and the Kaladan Multi-modal Project in Myanmar, connectivity with the ASEAN region would receive a boost. The minister pointed out that India and Myanmar are working very closely to upgrade infrastructure in the border areas.
“Connectivity projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT), its extension to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project are being planned and at different stages of implementation,” he said. India is already working with Myanmar in the areas of border area development, capacity building, infrastructure development, connectivity projects and institutional development.
Consultations are being held with ASEAN countries on the extension of the 1,360 km IMT highway from Moreh in India to Mae-Sot in Thailand to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Dakshita Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, speaking at the summit said that the connectivity will give a tremendous potential in terms of incremental GDP generating annually an estimated USD 70 billion in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025.
Cruise terminals are being built at major ports and in Mumbai alone INR1,000 crore is being spent to build a cruise terminal, Gadkari added. Of the 12 major ports, only five - Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, New Mangalore and Chennai - have facilities to berth international cruise ships.
India, with a 7,500 km of coastline, has taken some steps to promote cruise tourism that includes relaxation of policies and roping in global consultants.
He had earlier said that a policy was planned to put India on the global cruise map - both for oceans and rivers - which is seen to create about 2.5 lakh jobs and boost growth. India saw 176,000 cruise passengers in 2016-17, a merely 0.5 per cent of the global pie. Domestic cruise passengers are estimated to grow to 1.5 million by 2031-32.