The ASEAN-India Centre, inaugurated June 21, is to act like a platform for India and the bloc to take cooperation to higher levels, say Indian officials.

"Basically, it is meant to be a resource centre for us, as well as a hub for bringing together experts from both sides, a networking of think tanks,” Ashok K. Kantha, secretary in charge of East Asia in the Ministry of External Affairs, said. He added that the strategic partnership between ASEAN and India is an objective the two sides need to flesh out, whether economic and commercial connectivity, maritime security or socio-cultural exchanges.

The centre has been opened by Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a think tank of the external affairs ministry.

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who heads RIS, said that many projects are on the anvil between India and ASEAN. The ASEAN-India Centre is to be a kind of platform for different areas of their relationship. The centre will help to ensure that the connectivity projects generate economic development and empowerment for both India and ASEAN.

The combined population of India and the Southeast Asian bloc is 1.8 billion, which is one-fourth of the global population, and the combined GDP of the region is around 3 trillion USD. The two sides are also to work on connectivity projects, to boost trade and people-to-people connect. A 1,400 km Trilateral Highway , called Friendship Road that will link Thailand and Myanmar with India , is slated to be completed by 2016.-VNA