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19 Mar, 2013

India Hosts Meeting to Facilitate Rail-links between South, Southeast Asia


Ministry of Railways, 18-March, 2013 — The Minister of Railways, Government of India Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal inaugurated the 7th Meeting of Railways of South and South East Asian Countries here today. The two day meeting is being organized by Asian Institute of Transport Development (AITD).

Delivering inaugural address, the Railway Minster said that the Government of India is committed to the development of inter-country rail linkages and in furtherance of this policy Government of India extended its fullest support to the development of Trans-Asian Railway Network. He hoped that this network will come into being sooner than later. This network would provide a major land corridor for transport of people and goods across the frontiers of the member countries.

The Railway Minister said that one of the important key objectives of the Government of India is to assist the neighbouring countries to develop their rail infrastructure and substantial credit facilities have been extended to some of these countries. He said that Indian railways have taken several initiatives to promote regional cooperation. One such initiative is that of providing a gratis training programme for the railway personnel from the member countries. The Railway Minister announced that in keeping with the wishes of the member countries, the Government of India has decided to extend this programme for a further period of five years.

The Railway Minister further said that Indian Railways have thrown open its Research Development and Standards Organisation (RDSO) for joint research projects involving the railways of the region. He emphasized that a time has come when all the member countries should undertake cooperative research in mutually agreed areas, so that the research outcomes can be shared as a public good.

Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal emphasized that regional cooperation and trade is a beneficial mode of economic development and Railways have a great advantage of being socially the most benign mode of transport. The Railway Minister pointed out that cooperative efforts need not only be at the government level. Non-government organisations can and do play an equally effective supplementary role in this regard. He expressed his happiness that the Asian Institute of Transport Development is performing a great job of promoting regional cooperation in transport sector and this meeting is in itself a testimony of this commendable endeavour. The Indian Railway Minister wished the Conference all success.

In his speech Chairman Indian Railway Board Mr Vinay Mittal said that the annual meetings of railways of South & South-East Asia have provided an effective forum for sharing experiences and for launching important cooperative initiatives in the rail sector. Mr Mittal pointed out that the previous meetings have addressed important issues confronting the railways in areas relating to human resource development, inter-country transport linkages, multimodal transport, environmental concerns, new methods of financing of infrastructure, emerging business opportunities, etc. The vision of southern leg of Trans Asian railway network is a significant articulation of this forum. This aims not only the harmonization of technology and operational practices, but would give platform to cross-cultural interactions, he added.

The inaugural session was also addressed by Mr. Najibullah Aoudjan, Minister of Public Works of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Mr K.L. Thapar, Chairman, Asian Institute of Transport Development

The annual meetings of railways of South and South East Asian Countries have provided an effective forum for sharing experiences and for launching important cooperative initiatives in the rail sector. These meetings have been held in various countries including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and India. This 7th meeting has been structured in a manner as to deliberate on major issues confronting the railways of the region and to suggest solutions taking cognizance of the environmental challenges, change in the role of the state in financing of infrastructure, emergence of end-to-end logistics, etc.

There are seven sessions in this two days meeting namely: key issues confronting railway systems and their solutions, Information technology & opportunities for railway systems, Regional Cooperation & Trans-Asian Railway Network, Financing of Rail Infrastructure through PPP, Emerging Business opportunities for Railways, Climate Change advantage for Railways and adoption of report as part of conclusion.

Besides India, foreign delegates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, LAO PDR, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam as well as delegates from UNESCAP, ADB and World Bank are participating in the Conference. A number of senior officials of Ministry of Railways and Railway PSUs are also attending the Conference.

The Asian Institute of Transport Development is an independent, not-for-profit organization devoted to non-partisan research, education and training in infrastructure sector with special focus on transport and logistics. It has a special consultative status with the United Nations and a memorandum of understanding with UNESCAP for undertaking joint activities of mutual interest. Its membership spans most of the Asia-Pacific region. It thus provides substantive support to various initiatives, particularly in human resource development, irrespective of the country groupings.