Public Diplomacy

Remarks by the External Affairs Minister at the 11th ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

July 01, 2013


  1. I thank you for your suggestions and views on further enhancing our strategic partnership. I am particularly comforted by the consensus around this room to improving connectivity, promoting cooperation among our institutions and deepening linkages between our people. This has been the unique defining feature of our partnership.
  2. I am happy to inform you that we will now be assisted by the ASEAN-India Centre, which has been established pursuant to the direction of our Leaders in their Vision Statement six months ago. This Centre will serve as a resource to assist us, in particular, in implementing connectivity projects across the three dimensions: geographic; institutional; and people-to-people. We look forward to ASEAN suggestions on the specific mandate for the Centre. We will soon be getting from RIS, which is hosting the ASEAN-India Centre, suggestions towards the composition of the Board. I understand that the Chairman of the ASEAN New Delhi Committee has already been invited to be on the Board and there is expectation that ASEAN nationals would eventually join the Indian resource personnel at the Centre. We will review the functioning of the Centre after two years.
  3. The Vision Statement and the elevation of the partnership to a strategic level last December came in the wake of significant progress during the last two years in our Plan of Action for 2010-2015 under all the three pillars. The ASEAN Secretariat has worked very interactively with us in its implementation. I would like to thank the Secretary General for the support from his team and inform that we have provided the latest update to ASEC of the numerous activities that have been put under the Plan of Action. We have also begun discussions this month through the ASEAN SOMTC+India consultations in Da Nang, Viet Nam on June 21, to further our collaboration under the ASEAN Political Security Community Blueprint 2015. I am also happy to share with you that we are looking forward to ASEAN participation in an International Symposium on Public Service Excellence towards the end of this year. With these additional activities, our mid-term review of the Plan of Action for 2010-2015 indicates that we could meet the Plan objectives ahead of time, if we are able to fast track some of the project proposals already in the pipeline.
  4. We now have more than 25 mechanisms for functional cooperation between ASEAN and India. In the last one year, we initiated Ministerial level meetings in environment and new & renewable energy, began a dialogue on cooperation in the vital SME sector and had the first meeting between the Heads of Space Agencies. The Ministerial level meetings in the sectors of tourism, trade and agriculture have continued with good progress. We also brought in new mechanisms at the levels of officials. I would suggest, Excellencies, that we urge our Ministerial colleagues to keep up, like us, the annual periodicity of their sectoral meetings.
  5. Our economic and commercial engagement has seen very impressive trade growth, 10 times in the 10 years, since we launched our Summit level partnership in 2002. But it is very important that we do not rest on our laurels. The FTA on Trade in Goods signed in 2009 helped us to meet our trade target of USD 70 billion ahead of time when the trade turnover in 2012 reached USD 80 billion. But the more recent trend of a relative decline in ASEAN-India trade during 2012-13, though minor, should serve as a wake up call. Excellencies, I would suggest a sense of urgency to concluding the legal scrubbing of the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements and an early signature of these agreements before our Leaders meet again in another three months. This is also essential for achieving our trade target of USD 100 billion by 2015 as directed in the Vision Statement by our Leaders.
  6. Excellencies, we are happy to note the progress amongst the ASEAN countries in integrative processes towards the ASEAN Community by 2015. I would like to emphasize that as ASEAN countries integrate amongst themselves, the process of integration with India should also move apace, whether on facilitating our people-to-people linkages, our institutional and trade complementarity or our geographical connectivity. We would like to engage with you as to how India can contribute further to the processes towards the ASEAN Community by 2015.
  7. I would like to mention one of the most progressive developments under the chairmanship of Brunei Darussalam, that we have initiated the annual ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC)-India Meeting, to facilitate coordination and policy decisions on connectivity issues. This meeting discussed, inter alia, the idea of a possible maritime transport route linking India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam and has suggested the setting up of a Joint Working Group on Maritime Connectivity to explore linkages to complement the ASEAN Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO-RO) Shipping Network. The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) has done commendable work in suggesting the utility of a Mekong India Economic Corridor and we need to, as Governments, look at providing incentives, including setting up of SEZs to attract our private sectors to vest in these connectivity corridors. We look forward to receiving from Lao PDR the coordinated route alignments so that examination of the extension of the Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam can begin. Our commitments to the Trilateral Highway linking India-Myanmar-Thailand are proceeding as planned. We are looking forward to engage with the ASEAN in the upcoming seminars on connectivity in Thailand in July and November as also in Brunei Darussalam in August. I also concur with the ACCC-India recommendation to address issues relating to enhancement of tourism cooperation between ASEAN and India. I find the Indian tourists see the value for money in tourist destinations in ASEAN and I would like to see a similar perception increase tourist inflows into India from the ASEAN countries! We are internally discussing the feasibility of providing a link from ASEAN to the Buddhist sites in India to facilitate tourist arrivals from ASEAN.
  8. In our support for the ASEAN Community by 2015, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), the Narrowing of the Development Gap and the Master Plan on ASEAN Plus Connectivity (MPAC), we are continuing with the process of building capacity through the Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDCs) and Centers for English Language and Training (CELTs) in CLMV countries, apart from offering more than 1100 scholarships to ASEAN countries under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. We had recently, in May 2013, sent a delegation to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam to take further the process of setting up additional CELTs, EDCs and VTCs and I look forward to your suggestions on how to utilize these resources better.
  9. Excellencies, as I mentioned before, our calendar of activities, led by Governments, has become fully participative of our people. This strengthening of people-to-people linkages is in keeping with our historical experience and of relevance to the future of our strategic partnership. Our exchange programmes for ASEAN students, farmers, diplomats, media and scientists now have annual periodicity but I have been told that more Indians than ASEAN eminent persons have travelled under the Eminent Persons Lecture Series. I would urge that we remedy this imbalance in the EPLS. I hope my colleagues from Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore, who have been invited under the EPLS programme this year, will consider my suggestion to lend their support to it. I look forward to seeing them in India.
  10. I have also sought your convenience, Excellencies, for dates in March 2014 for Delhi Dialogue-VI. I value your support in strengthening this premier track 1.5 interaction as also the ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, which would be held in Lao PDR later this year.
  11. In terms of priorities ahead, in the run up to our 11th Summit on October 10, 2013, we look forward to working with you on the:
    • Setting up of four IT Centres in CLMV and an IT Resource Centre in India by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing;
    • Establishment of Tracking and Data Reception Station & Data Processing Facility for ASEAN in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam;
    • Upgradation of the Biak II Telemetry Tracking & Command Station in Indonesia
    • Training of ASEAN Personnel in Space Science and Technology,
    • Take further the process of finalization on the project for cooperation on Bio-diversity between the ASEAN Centre for Bio-diversity (ACB) and National Bio-diversity Authority of India (NBA).
  12. Excellencies, India remains convinced of the continuing relevance of the ASEAN-India strategic partnership as an anchor for peace, stability and prosperity in the region as also globally. There is a mutually beneficial synergy in our partnership. We continue to see the relevance also of ASEAN centrality to our regional fora such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum. I look forward to continuing our dialogue on this at the ARF and EAS meetings.
Thank you.


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