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Speech by External Affairs Minister at inauguration of Indian Mission to ASEAN (April 23. 2015)

April 23, 2015

Your Excellency Le Luong Minh,Secretary General of ASEAN,

Your Excellency Igusti Agung Wesaka Puja, DG ASEAN Cooperation, Indonesian Foreign Ministry


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It’s a great pleasure for me to inaugurate the independent Indian Mission to ASEAN today. The setting up of this Mission with a separate Ambassador to ASEAN, reflects our Government’s sincere commitment to intensify our engagement with this important regional grouping.

ASEAN lies at the core of India's Act East Policy and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century. We cherish the deep and abiding historical and civilizational links that anchor our relationship.

At the same time, through our 'Act East Policy', we are focusing on reorienting our partnership in the 21stcentury context to make it more pragmatic, action driven and result oriented. We are committed to intensifying our cooperation in security, trade, investment, connectivity, capacity-building and strengthening people-to-people linkages.

In the political-security sphere, I must convey our strong resolve to match the expectations of our friends in the region for India to play a more proactive role. We would also be happy to work with ASEAN Member States and other participating countries of the East Asia Summit process to bolster cooperation in collectively addressing the various traditional and non-traditional security challenges in order to ensure peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

As regards economic cooperation, I am happy to inform that we have just ratified the ASEAN-India Trade-in-Services and Investment Agreements, signed last year. Some ASEAN Member States have already ratified the Agreements. I will urge the rest of the Member States to also complete their respective domestic internal processes at the earliest, paving the way for the entry into force of both Agreements later this year. This will enable us to harness the huge potential for mutual investment as well as realise accelerated trade growth.

We are committed to engaging ourselves in constructive discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which involves ASEAN and its six dialogue partners, to ensure its early fruition with a balanced outcome in goods and services.

We are simultaneously endeavouring to see how we can transform our corridors of connectivity into corridors of economic cooperation. In this context, our Prime Minister announced, at the 12thASEAN-India Summit, establishing of a Special Facility to facilitate project financing and quick implementation of connectivity projects. We are currently working out the modalities of this Special Facility.

Fostering people-to-people linkages remains at the heart of India's engagement with ASEAN. We will continue efforts to build upon the existing programmes for regular exchange of students, journalists, farmers, scholars and academics. We are also looking to expand air connectivity, particularly between our North East and Southeast Asia, to support the growing people-to-people linkages.

We will also continue our assistance for human resource development and capacity building under the ITEC and Colombo Plan, the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Quick Impact Fund initiative, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration for Narrowing theintra-ASEAN Development Gap (IAI-NDG) programmes.

We would like to see more active Indian engagement in strengthening ASEAN andASEAN-related institutions. At the seventh edition of Delhi Dialogue last month, I announced 5 annual scholarships under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme for ASEAN Secretariat officials. In addition, we have been providing three slots to the Secretariat staff in the annual special training programme for ASEAN diplomats conducted by our Foreign Service Institute.

Our officials are currently engaged in drafting the next five year Action Plan for the period 2016-21 for furthering ASEAN-India Cooperation. We would work with our ASEAN colleagues to make it aspirational, yet pragmatic, that will help us realise optimally the potential for sectoral collaboration through a wide array of projects in a spirit of joint partnership and ownership that contributes to mutual learning and benefit.

I am confident that in the coming days, our Mission to ASEAN will bring more focus, objectivity, synergy and speed to our engagement with ASEAN and the ASEAN-centric processes and I wish them all success in their endeavours.

I thank you all for joining us on this special occasion.

April 23, 2015


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