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Statement by External Affairs Minister at the 10th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting

July 11, 2012

Excellencies,

I have heard with great interest your views on furthering ASEAN-India partnership. Your valuable inputs and suggestions will be duly reflected in our future programmes. We will continue to engage constructively with ASEAN member States to achieve the full potential of our partnership.

The civilizational strengths and historical linkages between India and ASEAN countries need to be extended to further to improve road, sea, rail, digital and people-to-people connectivity in present times. This is an imperative if we are to reinforce the economic foundations in our region for collective progress & prosperity.

Prime Minister of India announced two projects in Myanmar during his visit in May this year, which would help establish connectivity from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand. I understand ASEAN and Indian officials discussed the connectivity agenda further at the ASEAN Land Transport Working Group Meeting last week, which was aimed at establishing connectivity from India to Vietnam via Myanmar and Laos. Strengthening private sector participation and cross-country PPP linkages would help further reinforce our collaboration on "connectivity”.

The last one year has seen important progression in our partnership. India became the first Dialogue Partner to sign a MoU on Strengthening Tourism Cooperation with ASEAN countries in January this year.

Your participation added tremendous value to Delhi Dialogue-IV in New Delhi in February 2012. The Delhi Dialogue has now emerged as a regular calendar event for track 1.5 level interface between ASEAN and India, with the next edition to be held in February 2013.

The ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives had a useful visit to India in February 2012. I am happy to note that the first ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks meeting would be help in India on August 7, 2012. We would like to see such interface between our officials facilitate quick concurrence to the numerous proposals, which ASEAN and India are keen to implement.

The meeting of Heads of Space Agencies of India and ASEAN countries in Bengaluru in June this year made headway on the proposal for 'Establishment of a Tracking and Data Reception Station and a Data Processing Facility for ASEAN and the Training of ASEAN Personnel in Space Science & Technology'.

Our people-to-people interaction is on track. The work of ASEAN-India Artists was exhibited at the Civilizational Dialogue Conference held in Patna earlier this month. We would be inviting cultural troupes from all ASEAN countries to perform in different cities in November this year and, finally, to participate at a fusion cultural performance on the eve of the special ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit.

We are eagerly looking forward to the first visit of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly delegation later this month. I personally believe that this visit would go a long way in strengthening the interface between our legislatures.

India will be hosting next month the 1st Meeting of the ASEAN-India Environment Ministers and also the first ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on New & Renewable Energy in November this year. In addition, the second ASEAN-India Business Fair would be held in Delhi from December 18-20, which will be back-to-back with the Commemorative Summit.

To reemphasize the close connectivity, ASEAN-India Car Rally would be flagged off from Yogjakarta in Indonesia in 24 November. We propose that Leaders of ASEAN and India to give a ceremonial flag down to the Car Rally in Delhi on December 20. Similarly, the sail training ship INS Sudarshini would undertake an expedition to ports in nine ASEAN countries. A number of business, cultural and people-to-people marker events have been planned. Some of my Ministerial colleagues and I would participate in these events and I would request, Excellencies, that ASEAN Ministers also lend the events their profile.

The story of economic growth in our partnership is meeting expectations despite the global economic downturn. Two-way trade between ASEAN and India in 2011-12 touched reached 80 billion US Dollars. We believe that the early conclusion of the ASEAN-India Services & Investment Agreements would give a strong fillip to our economic engagement. We welcome the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership initiative to accelerate regional economic integration.

We are awaiting the recommendations of the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Group, which would be a valuable input for drafting the Vision Statement of the Special ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit. The ASEAN-India SOM meeting in May this year in Phnom Penh already started discussions on the elevation of the ASEAN-India partnership to a Strategic-level. I take back your views on ways to elevate the partnership.

Excellencies,

India remains committed to its partnership with ASEAN. We stand convinced of this partnership’s unique utility to the goal of the ASEAN Community by 2015, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), the Master Plan on ASEAN Plus Connectivity (MPAC), the Declaration for a Drug Free ASEAN by 2015 and to the collective capacity building in our region.

Thank you.

Phnom Penh
July 11, 2012

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