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Inaugural Address by External Affairs Minister at Delhi Dialogue VI

March 06, 2014

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, H.E. U Wunna Maung Lwin,
Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR, H.E. Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith,
Secretary General of ASEAN, H.E. Mr. Le Luong Minh,Deputy Foreign Ministers and Vice Ministers from ASEAN countries,
Chief Ministers of Assam and Manipur,
Representatives from the Partner Organizations for Delhi Dialogue VI,
Distinguished Panelists for DDVI,
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. I am delighted to once again address the Inaugural Session for Delhi Dialogue. Over the last six years, this Dialogue has helped our effort to nurture an inclusive, expansive and continuous dialogue amongst the various stakeholders in the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
  2. I particularly appreciate the efforts of my ASEAN counterparts, the Foreign Ministers, to put this event onto their calendars each year despite their busy schedules. I would like to thank the Secretary General of ASEAN Mr. Le Luong Minh for his presence amongst us and his efforts to make this event a success.
  3. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Myanmar all sucess as ASEAN Chair this year and reiterate India's committment to extend full support to Myanmar in its endeavours.
  4. The theme of Delhi Dialogue VI "Realizing the ASEAN-India Vision for Partnership and Prosperity” will allow us a comprehensive discussion on the future course of this strategic partnership, which is now being driven by the Vision Statement adopted at the Commemorative Summit in 2012. The Vision Statement builds on the civilizational foundation to our relationship and the dynamism and increasing strategic relevance that it has acquired over the last 20 years. It seeks an ambitious engagement on the basis of identity of purpose and interests and the unique absence of irritants. It takes into account the value of the ASEAN-India strategic partnership to the realization of the ASEAN Community as an economic as also a political-security entity. The Vision Statement looks at constructive engagement, supported by the ASEAN way of dialogue and consensus and progress at a pace which is comfortable for all.
  5. I would like to commend the ASEAN and Indian members of the ASEAN India Eminent Persons Group, present amongst us today, for their very thought provoking report in 2012, which formed the basis of this Vision Statement.
  6. We have already begun implementation of the Vision Statement 2012. The ASEAN-India Centre was set up last June to act as a continuous resource for Governments. I hope that the modalities to bring in ASEAN nationals can be finalized at an early date. ASEAN-India now have 26 regular dialogue mechanisms across various sectors. The last few years have seen an institutionalization of these dialogues, which has helped us to bring in more stakeholders. Industry, think tanks, academia and media have become intrinsic to our discourse with members of the strategic community in ASEAN and India, through Delhi Dialogue and the ASEAN India Network of Think Tanks. We continue with priority to capacity building, sharing of expertise and bridging of institutions between ASEAN and India for promoting economic development and ensuring peace and stability. We are also continuing with the ASEAN-India Action Plan for 2010-15, which now has activities executed or envisaged under almost all its provisions.
  7. Some major initiatives are being implemented later this year, notably in the field of IT, space cooperation, science and technology and agriculture. Food and energy security issues are amongst our top prioirities as is the urgency for enhancing connectivity between ASEAN and India in all its dimensions – geographic, institutional and people-to-people. India is meeting its commitments on the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and we are in the process of dialogue with ASEAN countries to pursue an intermodal approach to integrate road and rail corridors to sea routes, and to bring together economic synergies to transform the corridors of geographic connectivity into corridors of economic cooperation.
  8. I appreciate that my colleagues, the Chief Ministers of Assam and Manipur have taken time to join us in Delhi and I look forward to hearing their vision later today as their States are active participants in the ASEAN India connectivity agenda. I am particularly happy to see the participation from Myanmar and Thailand amongst the panelists in Session 2 of Delhi Dialogue which would deliberate the bridge to ASEAN through India’s North East and Myanmar. Together with members of the ASEAN Connectivity Coordination Committee, who are also amongst us today, I expect that the ACCC-India informal discussions this weekend will get food for thought for some clear action points on the way ahead.
  9. The economic underpinnings of the ASEAN India strategic partnership are being strengthened. We have completed our process for signing of the FTA on Services and Investment and we await the completion of the processes amongst the ASEAN countries. The envisaged Trade and Investment Centre, the strengthening of the ASEAN-India Business Council and its Secretariat, the decision to task a Working Group on Soft Infrastructure, and the agreement between our Leaders at the last 11th ASEAN India Summit in Brunei Darussalam that we need an ASEAN India Transit Transport Agreement by 2015 are all envisaged under the Vision Statement as part of the way forward. We are partnering the ASEAN countries in the ongoing RCEP negotiations that intend to define the economic commons in East Asia.
  10. I would be interested to see Delhi Dialogue VI address, in particular, the financing and investment related dimensions for this intensive agenda to promote ASEAN India connectivity. We need optimal resource utilization and out-of-the-box solutions. By some estimates, ASEAN are looking at over USD 600 billion investment in their region over the next ten years. India has an even bigger requirement of investment in infrastructure. With all the debate that we have seen in the past few months on the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of ASEAN-India connectivity, I think the time has come to consciously attempt to address the ‘how’ with a sense of urgency. I hope that DDVI will help this process. I know that other partners of ASEAN and India are waiting to see how we solve this equation and it is important that our partners in this endeavour share our vision for the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
  11. If we are to engage Industry and promote trade and economic linkages, then the first aspect to address is ease of movement for our businessmen and professionals. Our people-to-people linkages are the bedrock of our potential for partnership. We have visas on arrival arrangements with seven of the ten ASEAN countries. I ask you, is it not time to look at long term visas in the near term as a means to ensure that our human resource capacities are not shackled by procedural requirements? Do we not need to make it easier for our businessmen, professionals and experts to travel more easily between our countries? This will help India build capacities in ASEAN and also incentivize investments from the private sectors. Do we not need to conceptualize and encourage economic hubs to compel connectivity? This will encourage multimodal use of the geographic linkages. Do we not need to progress from a natural partnership to a partnership of bringing together capacities for rapid economic growth and prosperity? And should not the private sectors seek a more decisive role in this process? I hope DDVI will deliberate these questions.
  12. As part of its maritime agenda, India is allowing 100% FDI under the automatic route for construction and maintenance of ports. We are giving tax holidays, encouraging private sector participation in ports and incentivizing ship building. The maritime transport sector in India is seeing a rewrite of its story. We would welcome similar enabling policies and measures for Indian Industry willing to invest in ASEAN ambitions.
  13. Another very important dimension to the ASEAN India strategic partnership is its increasing relevance to the political-security space in East Asia. With power equations being re-drawn, the ASEAN India relationship provides an egalitarian balance for the maintenance of peace and stability. An inclusive, open architecture is our common objective. It is pertinent now more than ever to reinforce existing international law on maritime security. India’s naval footprint is essentially that of a net security provider even as it is set to expand. There is also potential for greater engagement between ASEAN and India in the ARF, ADMM+ and ASEAN Maritime Forum. For both ASEAN and India, the bulk of our external trade by volume and by value is ocean borne. Our energy security is linked to maritime sea lines of communication. Transnational crimes, including counter-piracy and counter-terrorism are matters of the highest priority, where there can be more effective engagement between ASEAN and India. We, therefore, support the ASEAN view which calls for greater ASEAN India collaboration on political-security issues.
  14. Ladies & Gentlemen, if ASEAN countries hold the ambition of a single Community and of the East Asia space seeing geo-political unity in purpose and ambition, India shares that vision. The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a relatively stable engine of growth. On the strength of this vision which endorses consenus and amity, it is important that redefinition of the security essentials in the region endorse these principles as well! I hope Delhi Dialogue will aid clarity of thought on these important principles.
  15. Once again, I welcome you all to the sixth edition of Delhi Dialogue. This forum has shown welcome progress each year in its panelists and discussion frameworks and I look forward with high expectation to the results of your deliberations tomorrow.

Thank you.

 

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