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Statement by Secretary(East) at 17th Ministerial meeting of Asia Cooperation Dialogue, Ankara

January 21, 2021

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies,

It is a privilege to speak at this 17th ACD Ministerial meeting which has aptly chosen the theme "New normal and safe and healthy tourism."

The unprecedented challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic has severely tested the resilience of all nations and has brought out the indivisible aspect of human existence, calling for a coordinated response that goes well beyond national boundaries. Strong multilateral cooperation is critical in our collective fight against the pandemic as also for a global economic recovery.

Though it is difficult to visualize a new normal, Asia, the birthplace of major religions and civilizations of the world, which can proudly lay claim to natural connectivity due to historical & civilizational links, is taking this challenge head on. In the ‘new normal’, while we work to revive old businesses to bring back livelihoods, we must also focus on innovation and complementarities, and explore new business models.

Tourism has suffered significant losses due to the pandemic. It is now a priority for us to revive and rebuild this sector for ensuring jobs as well as for the protection of our cultural and natural heritage. India is focusing on tourism promotion as a part of Three-Ts strategy which includes "Trade, Tourism and Technology”. I am confident that India with its geographical diversity, world heritage sites and niche tourism products like cruises, adventure-sports, eco-tourism and medical would rise to the occasion to achieve full potential of tourism industry.

Currently, our focus is on vaccines and rapid testing, so essential for travel normalcy. At this time, we need to strengthen our efforts aimed at the development of equitable and universal access to diagnostic tools, treatments and vaccines in order to promote safe and healthy tourism. India stands ready to collaborate with our partners in the international community towards achieving this goal. We have already supplied Covid related assistance to over 150 countries. Beginning January 20th, vaccines from India have started reaching our neighbourhood under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Seychelles, reflecting India’s commitment to use its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Excellencies, the multiple challenges ranging from the pandemic to terrorism, cyber crimes and conflicts over resources and territory, call on us to be more pro-actively engaged with each other to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Even amidst the ongoing pandemic, terrorism continues to pose a critical threat. We must cooperate to eliminate terrorism in all its forms, for terrorists do not believe in a nation, state or nationalism. Another area where we can gain from multi-faceted cooperation to address common challenges is the Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its centre. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 calls for a free, open, inclusive and a rules-based Indo-Pacific region, which promotes Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).

As the world’s most dynamic and economically-vibrant region, Asia has the potential to serve as a growth engine for the rest of the world and contribute to global economic recovery in the post-pandemic scenario. In addition, there are deep cultural connections, like the common thread of Buddhism, which can be further reinforced to enhance connectivity in the region.

India has undertaken a number of initiatives to promote connectivity in Asia like the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its further extension to Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. Through initiatives like the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), we hope to bring positive global climate action as well as make infrastructure disaster resilient. In addition, India has extended development assistance worth US$ 15.9 billion to Asian countries, covering transport, power generation and distribution, agriculture, manufacturing industries, health-care, education and capacity building.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Government of Turkey for steering the work of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) as the Chair and for hosting the 17th ACD Ministerial Meeting.

Thank you.

New Delhi
January 21, 2021


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