Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The ASEAN-India partnership has grown into one of ASEAN’s most
comprehensive, dynamic and fast-growing partnerships, Le Luong Minh,
ASEAN Secretary General, has said at the inaugural session of the fifth
Delhi Dialogue in New Delhi, India on February 19.

The following is the full text of the ASEAN Secretary General’s remarks delivered to the session:
“First of all, allow me to express my sincere appreciation to
the Ministry of External Affairs of India, the Indian Council of World
Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
for hosting and inviting me and the ASEAN Secretariat to participate in
this important Delhi Dialogue on the ASEAN-India vision for partnership
and prosperity.

The “Look East” policy that India has been
implementing since 1991, which includes efforts to strengthen its
relations with ASEAN has been well reciprocated by ASEAN as an
outward-looking organisation.

Over the past two decades,
ASEAN has engaged India in a relationship which had grown rapidly to
a full dialogue partnership in 1995, further strengthened with the
convening of annual summits since 2002 and most recently, last year,
elevated to strategic partnership. From a relationship which mainly
emphasised economic cooperation, the ASEAN-India partnership has
developed into one of ASEAN’s most comprehensive, dynamic and
fast-growing partnerships spanning across a whole spectrum of
political-security, economic, social-cultural and development
collaboration. The consistent sequence of elevating the ASEAN-India
partnership not only reflects the two sides’ interest and desire and
mutual interest to intensify their engagement, it also constitutes a
solid foundation for further effective joint actions for peace, progress
and shared prosperity.

As ASEAN is in the process of building
the ASEAN Community, we appreciate India’s support for ASEAN
Community building, its implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN
Connectivity, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and ASEAN Centrality.

The Leaders of ASEAN and India at their Commemorative
Summit last December adopted a Vision Statement, which will serve as
guidance to the pursuit of our strategic partnership for the years to
come.

In this Vision Statement, our Leaders called for greater
effective implementation of the Plan of Action to implement the
ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity
(2010-2015). The Plan of Action encompasses activities under the various
existing ASEAN sectoral work plans, Declarations concluded between
ASEAN and India, as well as priority activities under the Roadmap
for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015 that could be implemented with
India.

In this regard, we would like to suggest that both ASEAN
and Indian officials undertake a mid-term review of the implementation
of this Plan of Action and map out the course of actions and possible
joint activities from now until 2015, which would better correspond to
the Vision set out by our Leaders, and study the important
recommendations in the Report of the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Group
presented to our Leaders at the 10th ASEAN-India Summit in November
2012.

In the economic field, ASEAN and India have set the
aim of achieving a free trade area. With a combined market of over 1.8
billion people and a GDP of USD 3.8 trillion and relative geographical
proximity, there is huge potential awaiting to be tapped. The signing
and entry into force of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement
(TIG) and the conclusion of the negotiation on the Agreement on trade in
services and investment paved the way for the creation of one of the
world’s largest free trade areas. In this endeavour, we need to promote,
devise measures to ensure that this FTA benefits the business
community on both sides.

Also at the 10th ASEAN-India Summit
in November 2012, our Leaders set the target of 100 billion USD by
2015 for ASEAN-India trade. In achieving this target as well as in the
long-run, inter-connectivity would play a key role. ASEAN is embarking
on an ambitious and long-term strategy to improve the region’s
physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity. Enhanced
ASEAN connectivity would promote ASEAN centrality in the regional
architecture, facilitate the building of an ASEAN Community and serve as
a foundation for a more enhanced connectivity beyond the region. ASEAN
and India are located within an economically vibrant Asian region.
Effective implementation of the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity
would be of great significance.

Expanding and improving road,
rail, maritime and air linkages will be critical to further increase
ASEAN-India trade and investment. The development of the Mekong-India
Economic Corridor, the early construction of the new
India-Myanmar-Lao PDR-Vietnam-Cambodia Highway and the extension of
the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to Lao PDR and
Cambodia would promote transport infrastructure linkages between ASEAN
and India .

At the same time, we can strengthen ASEAN-India
air connectivity by working towards greater liberalisation of air
services, both cargo and passengers. Early conclusion of the ASEAN-India
Air Services Agreement not only promotes trade, investment and tourism
but also people-to-people connectivity, which are all mutually
reinforcing.

Another key area of connectivity is information and
communications technologies (ICT), which can be enhanced through sharing
of best practices in policy, regulations, technological development and
capacity building programmes.

To explore concrete ways and means
to support the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity in areas where India
has strong expertise and interest, regular exchanges between the ASEAN
Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC) and India’s
Inter-Ministerial Group on Connectivity would be essential.

Over
the years, ASEAN-India socio-cultural cooperation has been expanded to
include human resource development, science and technology (ST),
people-to-people contacts, health and pharmaceuticals, transport and
infrastructure, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), tourism,
information and communication technology (ICT), agriculture, and energy.

India has also been actively contributing to narrowing the gaps of
development through a number of projects and programmes. India’s
support for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), particularly the
programmes for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in
training and capacity building in entrepreneurship development, English
language training and ICT has been well-recognised and appreciated
by ASEAN.

The present regional and global dynamics are rendering
to discussions on a regional architecture in East Asia even more
urgent than ever. The dynamics bring along uncertainties, challenges and
opportunities that the region has to manage.

As the new
realities dawn on the region’s horizon, ASEAN as the fulcrum of
relations in the East Asia region is very well aware that it faces more
challenges in preserving its relevance and centrality.

In
expanding ASEAN’s external relations with a view to constructively
engaging its friends and partners to shape the evolving regional
architecture, and at the same time to ensure that ASEAN will have a
united voice and will be at the centre or form the core of the evolving
regional architecture, ASEAN will strive to continue to exercise
leadership and remain proactive in managing the cob-web of processes and
cooperation in the region.

ASEAN welcomes and appreciates
India’s participation, continued commitment and support for the
development of ASEAN-led regional processes which are open, transparent
and inclusive, and based on principles of international law such as the
East Asia Summit, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Twenty years of
cooperation has yielded great mutual benefits for both ASEAN and India. Looking ahead, the work we have to accomplish to ensure peace,
promote progress and shared prosperity for our 1.8 billion people is
much more comprehensive than what I only briefly mentioned and as
reflected in the Agenda for this Fifth Dialogue. I wish success to the
deliberation.”.-VNA

By vivian