The ASEAN connect
This Republic Day witnessed 10 heads of ASEAN countries in attendance, who were also here for the ASEAN summit— an opportunity that saw India discussing various policies with these nations, including tourism. While more Indians are travelling to these countries in the past few years, they still make up only 3 per cent of visitors to the region. The nations could come together to focus on building the ASEAN tourism sector together. In fact, Buddhism is what connects all of them, especially with India being the centre of most Buddhist sites. Most of the ASEAN countries have many followers of Buddhism, who are potential tourists for India. India’s MOT has already put a Buddhist circuit in plan, but infrastructure and connectivity are still an issue. There is also the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway under construction, which would extend from Moreh in Northeastern India to Mae Sot in Thailand and is expected to be completed in 2020. While it might address the travelling woes between these nations, Buddhist tourism still has a long way to flourish between ASEAN.