Jakarta, April 23: India took a major step to cement its close association with the Asean and give a fillip to its Act East policy by iugurating an independent Indian mission to the Southeast Asian bloc (ASEAN) here on Thursday.
Exterl Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, addressing the iuguration event here, said the setting up of the mission with a separate ambassador to Asean “reflects our government’s sincere commitment to intensify our engagement with this important regiol 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 civilisatiol links that anchor our relationship,” she said.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian tions (Asean), which has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2.4 trillion, is estimated to grow at 5 percent over the next decade. The bloc has a population of 600 million, largely youthful. Sushma Swaraj said India through its ‘Act East Policy’ was focusing on reorienting the partnership 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,” she said.
She said India was ready to play a more pro-active role in the politico-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 traditiol and non-traditiol security challenges in order to ensure peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.”
Many of the Asean countries have been urging India to play a more proactive role in the security architecture of the region, especially with regard to South Chi Sea.
Sushma Swaraj said India has ratified the Asean-India Trade-in-Services and Investment Agreements, which was inked last year.
While some of the Asean tions have ratified it, some are yet to do so.
She urged the remaining tions to “complete their respective domestic interl processes at the earliest, paving the way for the entry into force of both agreements later this year. This will eble us to harness the huge potential for mutual investment as well as realise accelerated trade growth”, she said.
The Asean-India Trade in Goods agreement inked in 2009 created one of world’s largest free trade areas (FTA) - a market of around 1.8 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion.
The agreement, which came into force on January 1, 2010 helped boost bilateral trade, from $44 billion in 2009-10 to over $74 billion in 2013-14.
Sushma Swaraj said India was keen to engage in constructive discussions on the Regiol Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which involves Asean and its six dialogue partners, to ensure its early fruition with a balanced outcome in goods and services.
She said India was also striving to transform the connectivity corridors into corridors of economic cooperation. IANS