Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening,
It gives me great pleasure to be here today at the inaugural of Conference on "Connecting East: Confluence of IPOI and AOIP Visions”. I wish to congratulate Association of Asia Scholars for organising this conference with Ministry of External Affairs and take forward the discussion on convergence of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific with India’s own Vision for the region and with Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.
2. In June, this year, India hosted the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting to commemorate 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations. The Meeting was followed by 12th edition of our signature track 1.5 event with ASEAN called Delhi Dialogue. With its theme of "Building Bridges in Indo-Pacific, the Delhi Dialogue XII looked at the ASEAN-India Partnership through the prism of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific where Ministers from ASEAN countries and India presented their views. I am happy that today’s conference takes forward that conversation and is set to explore implementation of the Joint Statement on AOIP adopted by Indian and ASEAN leaders during the last Summit.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
3. India and ASEAN share civilizational contacts which are deep-rooted and abiding. Our geo-strategic location linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, has helped to strengthen our relations. The maritime routes to South East Asia allowed for the intermingling of our cultures. These trade routes linked ancient India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, lower Cambodia and southern Vietnam, to the archipelago of Sumatra, Java and Bali and numerous other urbanized coastal settlements.
4. ASEAN region’s immense wealth in the form of historical monuments and civilizational heritage stand witness to our common cultural connect. Our shared priority for preservation and restoration of this historical treasure is directly reflected in our cultural cooperation. The ancient socio-cultural relations and linkages have also found contemporary expression in the form of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation, a sub-regional mechanism aimed at reviving cooperation between the peoples of the Mekong and Ganga river basins in the fields of tourism, education, culture and people-to-people contacts.
5. Speaking of contemporary era, India and ASEAN have an enduring, multifaceted Strategic Partnership. In the last 30 years since we established a formal relationship, from a Sectoral Partnership in 1992, our relationship has evolved into Strategic Partnership in 2012, encompassing areas ranging from Agriculture to Space with several multi-layered dialogue mechanisms.
6. Our increasing engagement with the wider Indo-Pacific region also demonstrates India’s desire for a stronger partnership with ASEAN. India’s ‘Act East Policy’ announced by Prime Minister Modi in 2014 expanded into India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific with ASEAN at the centre. India’s vision for the region resonates closely with ASEAN’s own Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Both AOIP and IPOI see Indo-Pacific as a closely integrated and inter-connected region. Both want to see a free, open and inclusive region that ensures Security and Growth for All in the Region. We want a rules-based order with respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, adherence to international law including 1982 UNCLOS that promotes dialogue and peaceful settlement of disputes while rejecting the use of force. Due to these very reasons, India was among the first countries to welcome the AOIP. These commonalities are also very well captured in the ASEAN-India Joint Statement on cooperation on AOIP which now acts as a beacon to guide our engagement in the region.
7. Maritime Cooperation, Connectivity, Economic and Developmental Cooperation identified in ASEAN Outlook for the region are also priorities for India in the region. They form important components of Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative as well. India and ASEAN are not only land neighbours but also maritime neighbours. As the inter-connectedness of Indian and Pacific Oceans is getting its due recognition, so is the scope of our cooperation in this domain.
8. With the increasing penetration of digital technology in all aspects of our lives, our cooperation in ICT and S&T are has become equally important. The fourth Industrial revolution provides us an opportune time to enhance our cooperation digital connectivity. Similarly, our focus on climate action and environmental protection also opens up newer areas of cooperation with special focus on new and renewal energy and green and sustainable growth.
9. Developmental partnership has always being focus of ASEAN-India relations and continues to play important part in for vision for the region and is the very essence behind Prime Minister Modi’s doctrine of SAGAR i.e Security and Growth for All in the region. Our 1000 PhD Fellowships for ASEAN students at IITs, Fellowships for ASEAN students at Nalanda University, Scholarships to students from MGC countries through ICCR and the ASEAN-India Network of Universities, inaugurated earlier this week are some of the ongoing efforts in this field. These investments in our human capital and socio-cultural links will continue to form the foundation for our cooperation in the future.
10. Economic cooperation has always been an important pillar ASEAN-India partnership. Todays it encompasses agreements in Goods, Services and Investment. Our bilateral trade has crossed US$ 100 billion, however, our economies have huge untapped potential. We look forward to an early review of the existing Agreement on Trade in Goods to improve and make it more beneficial to all. We also encourage involvement of private sector in enhancing our economic engagement. ASEAN-India Business Council ensures their participation to enhance trade and investment between the two sides.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
11. Let me conclude by saying that the ongoing ASEAN-India partnership provides us with a strong foundation to build up our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, guided by the synergy of AOIP and IPOI. In these times of global challenges, ASEAN-India ties are a source of balance and harmony in the region. As we celebrate 30 years of our relations with ASEAN, we aim to further strengthen our broad based relationship by exploring new avenues. And I am confident that today’s conference with its illustrious list of speakers and panelists from India and ASEAN Member States would definitely provide us with such avenue of practical cooperation. I wish the conference all the success and look forward to its recommendations.