September 14, 2015
Excellencies (Ambassadors from ASEAN countries),
Representatives from Indian industry and media,
Our young friends from Indonesia, Malayasia, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Brunei Darussalam
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- We have amongst ourselves, 110 students from five ASEAN countries under the ASEAN-India Students’ Exchange Programme, which is into its seventh year now. I am glad to know that your weeklong visit to India has taken you to Hyderabad-the city of pearls, Agra-which epitomizes Mughal architectural extravaganza and its rich culture and heritage and Delhi-India’s historical city and capital. During this week you have interacted with several leading Indian companies and academic institutions. I hope that this visit has given you a glimpse of India- its dynamic market, bustling economy and quest for sustainable development and inclusive growth and our functioning democracy.
- The visits within the ambit of the ASEAN-India Students’ Exchange Programme are part of our ongoing efforts to enhance awareness about each other.
- It gives me great pleasure to be here today and interact with you. Over the course of your stay in India, you would have noticed the commonalities in our art, architecture, food, music and heritage, to name a few.
- The ASEAN-India relationship is not only about shared civilizational heritage or the historically inter-connected geographic space or the synergy amongst ASEAN and India in economic and human resource development but increasingly about the strategic fundamentals of economic growth and prosperity, peace and stability. Since the dialogue relationship was initiated under the broad framework of Look East Policy in 1992, the potential and role of this partnership has grown commensurate to the increase in our collective capacities, our growing economic integration and the ongoing evolution of the political and security architecture in East Asia.
- The up-gradation of the relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 was a natural progression to the ground covered since India became a Sectoral Partner of the ASEAN in 1992, Dialogue Partner in 1996 and Summit Level Partner in 2002. Our government had moved with a great sense of priority and speed to turn India’s hitherto ‘Look East Policy’ into an action-driven and result-oriented ‘Act East Policy.’ We have also opened an Independent Mission to ASEAN and EAS in Jakarta to further strengthen our engagement. India places ASEAN at the core of the Act East Policy and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century.
- I must emphasize that India is a young country- with more than one-third of the population in the age bracket 15-34. We will have a significant demographic advantage in times to come. The global economy is expected to witness a skilled man power shortage to the extent of around 56 million by 2020. It is very important that the young people understand and engage themselves with issues concerning the contemporary world. I am sure while interacting with your Indian counterparts, you must have had discussions over the role of youth in today's world.
- While our political and economic relations with ASEAN are acquiring depth and momentum, people-to-people ties have also become vibrant. The highlights of our socio-cultural engagement in recent years include the memorable Shipping Expedition of INS Sudarshini to nine ASEAN countries and the ASEAN-India Car Rally in 2012 during the 20th anniversary year of ASEAN-India relations. Apart from the highly successful ASEAN-India Students Exchange Programme, which brings you all here, we organize programmes for exchange visits of media-persons, farmers, diplomats and experts. We are currently offering visa on arrival facilities for tourists from nine ASEAN countries.
- Nalanda University epitomizes India's role in imparting knowledge to the world - the era when India was a coveted place for studies. To revive the ancient seat of learning, two courses in two schools- Schools of Historical Studies and Ecology and Environment Studies have already being conducted and we would be launching the third School for Buddhist Studies and Comparative Religion also from the academic year 2016-17. We are also offering six scholarships to students from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam to pursue higher studies at the University from this academic year. We urge students gathered here, as well as Ambassadors from ASEAN countries, to spread the word so that more students from ASEAN countries join the University and share an academically enriching experience.
- ASEAN-India Students Exchange Programme has been one of the most successful initiatives and a shining example of ASEAN-India cooperation. It has been very well received from both sides-there has been enthusiastic participation from all ASEAN countries which has been matched by eagerness from our side. As a result, the programme, which started in 2007, has improved considerably over the years. The interaction with India’s Chief Election Commissioner would have given you a good idea about how the biggest democracy in the world conducts the biggest electoral exercise in the world. India is world's largest democracy and despite such diversity the people of India have always shown their faith in the democratic system.
- For this year, CII has added some commendable new components. Tomorrow you would be interacting with the Managing Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, a success story of Indian urban transit. A visit to North Eastern States, one of the most beautiful regions of India has also been planned for the next batch of ASEAN students who will be coming in the end-October this year. I am confident that you will return to your countries with a better perspective of India and better appreciation of ASEAN-India relations. When you join the workforce in various sectors in all parts of the globe, you would be the real ambassadors for ASEAN-India relations.
- I would like to conclude by thanking CII, especially Ms. Renuka Singh and her team, for designing the programme imaginatively and conducting it efficiently. CII, which has been doing this programme for several years now, deserves an applause for managing the programme.
- We invite you to keep in touch with us through our facebook page at aseanindia.com and also through the Indian Embassies in your respective countries. CII, in association with our Missions in ASEAN countries, would set up Alumni Associations with all the students who have benefited from the Exchange Programme. I would urge all of you to join the Associations and stay connected with them. I would also like to wish all of you the very best in your future endeavors and careers- and hope that you would continue to maintain a connection with India in future.