NEW DELHI — India is pushing an ambitious highway initiative through Myanmar and Thailand to connect with Vietnam through Cambodia and Laos.

Connectivity with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, is a central plank in India’s Act East policy to develop regional relations. However, the 1,360km trilateral highway, conceptualized over 15 years ago, has made slow progress and is already beyond its 2016 completion deadline.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in May 2014, has maintained a keen interest in the project, which his government now hopes to complete by 2020. Connections through to Vietnam will eventually extend the overall length of the highway to 3,200 km.

Complementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is the Kaladan multi-modal transport project in Myanmar connecting India’s north-eastern Mizoram state with Sittwe port. The various infrastructure projects are at “different stages of implementation,” according to Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for road transport, highways, shipping and water resources, who spoke this month at the ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit in New Delhi.

In September 2016 at an India-ASEAN summit in Vientiane, the Laotian capital, Modi proposed a joint task force on connectivity between the trilateral highway and Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. India continues to consult with ASEAN on the project, which will promote trade and production networks.

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