Asserting that there are “no irritants” in the India-ASEAN relationship, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told ASEAN leaders that a new era of economic development, industrialisation and trade has begun in India and they can be “great partners” for each other.
As India seeks to deepen its engagement with the 10-nation bloc of small and medium economies, Modi said both India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are keen to enhance their cooperation in advancing balance, peace and stability in the region.
“The ASEAN community is India’s neighbour. We have ancient relations of trade, religion, culture, art and traditions. We have enriched each other through our interaction. This constitutes a strong foundation of a modern relationship,” Modi said in his opening statement in Hindi at the 12th India-ASEAN summit in the Myanmarese capital.
“That is why our world view is similar in many respects; our mutual confidence and trust is strong. We have no irritants in our relationship. We see encouraging opportunities and challenges in the world in similar ways,” he said.
Observing that India and the ASEAN have been successful to a considerable extent in pursuing their dreams, Modi said they have laid a foundation for a strong and comprehensive strategic partnership.
“My government has been in office for six months and the intensity and momentum with which we have enhanced our engagement in the East, is a reflection of the priority that we give to this region,” the Prime Minister said at the summit held at the sprawling Myanmar International Convention Centre on the second day of his 10-day three-nation tour of Myanmar, Australia and Fiji.
“A new era of economic development, industrialisation and trade has begun in India. Externally, India’s ‘Look East Policy’ has become ‘Act East Policy’,” he said.
“Rapidly developing India and ASEAN can be great partners for each other. We are both keen to enhance our cooperation in advancing balance, peace and stability in the region,” the Prime Minister said. “But, our potential is much higher than where we are at the moment,” Modi said.
ASEAN, with a population of 600 million, accounts for 8.8 per cent of the world’s population.
Presently, India-ASEAN trade is around USD 76 billion, catering to a combined market of 1.8 billion people.
However, India’s trade with ASEAN is just three per cent of total ASEAN trade with officials saying there is immense untapped potential.
The two sides have set a target of USD 100 billion for bilateral trade by 2015.
Noting that India has close bilateral relations with each one of the 10 member nations, Modi said it treats the ties with ASEAN with the same importance.
“Today ASEAN has established its own identity and voice in global political and economic affairs. Today, the entire Asia-Pacific region desires integration and cooperation,” Modi said.
Observing that the entire Asia-Pacific region desired integration and cooperation, the Prime Minister said, “To achieve this extremely important goal we look at ASEAN, not only for inspiration but also for its leadership; and you have achieved a great deal of success in leading us in that direction.”