India pushes for deeper economic ties with ASEAN

RSTV Bureau

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrapped up her visit to Indonesia and landed in Singapore on Saturday afternoon. This her last leg of her trip in Southeast Asia.

In Jakarta, Swaraj called for a deeper economic integration with the “dynamic” ASEAN region. India wants to evolve a regional architecture based on the twin principles of shared security and shared prosperity, she said. Swaraj, who inaugurated the 5th Round Table of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) India Network of Think Tanks here, emphasised on enhancing maritime security, trade and investment, education and cultural heritage among the grouping.

“These are important markers in our engagement with South East Asia, in enhancing our strategic ties with ASEAN across 3 Cs. These 3Cs are commerce, connectivity and culture,” she said.

“We have energised our ancient links in a contemporary setting, to become a driving force in Asia’s resurgence,” she added.

“As a mature and responsible nation, one of India’s foreign policy interests, is to evolve a regional architecture based on the twin principles of shared security, and shared prosperity,” she said.

Swaraj also spoke about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region). “It recognises the central role played by the seas and oceans around us in promoting sustainable economic progress in a secure and stable environment,” she explained.

She said the Indo-Pacific region was increasingly being seen as a connectivity pathway.

“These waters must not only get better connected, but remain free from traditional and non-traditional threats, that impede free movement of people, goods and ideas. Respect for international law, notably UNCLOS, in ensuring this is, therefore imperative,” she said.

She said India and ASEAN share a common vision for global commerce and maritime domain and New Delhi looks forward to working closely with the grouping in a range of activities.

She called for cooperation in blue economy, coastal surveillance, building off- shore patrolling capabilities, hydrographic services and information sharing for increased maritime domain awareness.

She noted that a deeper economic integration with the “dynamic” ASEAN region, was an important aspect of India’s Act East Policy.

ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2 per cent of India’s total trade.

India is ASEAN’s 7th largest trading partner. Trade is back on track and registered an 8 per cent increase in 2016- 17, as compared to the previous year.

She said India wants to promote dialogue among ASEAN and Indian business and trade associations to further enhance bilateral trade and investment.

She invited the scholars, academics and think tanks present at the round table to offer new ideas, for a greater integration of ASEAN Economic Community with India and identify collaborative opportunities in investment, trade and services sector.

Swaraj also held talks with ASEAN Secretary General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi as India steps up efforts to strengthen engagements with the countries of the region under its ‘Act East’ policy.

New Delhi will host a commemorative summit on January 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Dialogue Partnership between India and the ASEAN in which all the leaders of the grouping are expected to participate.

ASEAN comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

She also addressed the Indian Community at a reception held in her honour in Jakarta.

Swaraj yesterday held talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marsudi and the two sides reviewed the whole gamut of bilateral relations.

Swaraj arrived in Jakarta from Thailand on Thursday on the second leg of her three-nation tour.

(With inputs from agencies)