July 21, 2015
H.E. Amb. Evan Garcia,
Ambassador Shyam Saran,
Ambassador Ma. Teresita C. Daza,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- It is my pleasure and privilege to be here today to deliver Special Remarks at this year's ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture, which is being delivered by my good friend and distinguished colleague, Amb. Evan Garcia.
- Amb. Garcia is Undersecretary of Policy at the Department of Foreign Affairs of The Philippines, and is my counterpart not only at the bilateral level with The Philippines but also in various regional fora such as the ASEAN-India Senior Official Meeting, the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
- We are honoured that Amb. Garcia has taken time out of his busy schedule to visit India at our invitation as a distinguished speaker under the aegis of the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series. This prestigious Lecture Series was instituted in 1996 and since then, 17 eminent persons from ASEAN Member Countries have visited India, including luminaries such as Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien, former Foreign Minister of Viet Nam, Dr. Ali Alatas, former Foreign Minister of Indonesia, etc. In turn, 15 Indian speakers have visited ASEAN countries.
- Amb. Garcia is the first eminent person from The Philippines Government to visit under this series as a representative of his country. Another eminent Filipino, Mr. Rodolfo C. Severino Jr., had visited India under the AIEPLS but in his capacity as the ASEAN Secretary General.
- India's relationship with the ASEAN is central to India's footprint in South East Asia and the Asia-Pacific. It is also the foundation of our Act East Policy. The India-ASEAN relationship was elevated to a Strategic Partnership at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held in 2012 in New Delhi and is today, undeniably, one of the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy.
- We have 30 annual dialogue mechanisms with the ASEAN, including a Summit at Prime Ministerial level and seven sectoral dialogues at Ministerial level. We have established three funds to support our vast agenda with the ASEAN, namely the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Fund, and the ASEAN-India Green Fund. Numerous projects are under implementation though these in diverse fields ranging from establishing of a space station to cooperating in fighting malaria to promoting agricultural research.
- ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner. Our trade with ASEAN countries stood at over US$ 76.58 billion in 2014-15, and holds great potential for expansion. In addition to the Free Trade Agreement in Goods signed in 2009, the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment were signed in November 2014 and are expected to enter into force later this year, completing our Free Trade Area with ASEAN. We hope that these agreements will provide enhanced confidence to businessmen and investors on both sides and help our commercial engagement grow by leaps and bounds, parallel to the development of the ASEAN Economic Community, which will come into being at the end of 2015.
- We are also in the process of negotiating a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the ASEAN and its six FTA partners (which include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, apart from India). We hope that the negotiations will proceed at an equal pace in goods, services and investments, and conclude at an early date with a mutually beneficial 'win-win' deal for all.
- Connectivity is an important aspect of our agenda with the ASEAN, given that we are one of only two countries which share both land and maritime frontiers with ASEAN. Better physical and economic connectivity are crucial to enhancing our mutual engagement across sectors as well as give a fillip to people-to-people exchanges. At the last India-ASEAN Summit in Nay Pyi Taw in November 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that a Special Facility would be created to facilitate project financing and quick implementation of ASEAN-India connectivity projects, and we are in the process of working out the modalities for this.
- India and the countries of South East Asia have historically enjoyed vibrant people-to-people links. We are working assiduously to enhance socio-cultural contacts and cooperation with ASEAN through exchange programmes of students, diplomats, media, think tanks, farmers and Parliamentarians.
- The Delhi Dialogue, the seventh edition of which was held earlier this year in March, and the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, are important components of our agenda to enhance mutual understanding. We are also initiating a project on documentation of historical and cultural links between India and ASEAN countries, and the first conference in this regard will take place next week on 23-24 July 2015 right here at the ASEAN-India Centre.
- In addition to our dialogue partner engagement with ASEAN, are also actively engaged with various ASEAN-centric regional fora, notably the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum, which are shaping the emerging political, security and economic architecture in the Asia-Pacific.
- In this regard, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC is perhaps the one major grouping where India is conspicuous by its absence. India applied for APEC membership in 1991 and we hope that our friend, The Philippines, which holds the APEC Chairmanship this year, will use its good offices to have the moratorium on APEC membership, in place since 1997, lifted.
- We believe that India could play an important role within APEC for growth, development and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Incorporation of new members such as India would also inject dynamism into APEC as well as make it truly reflective of 21st century realities.
- At the bilateral level, The Philippines is undoubtedly an important partner for India, with shared values of democracy and the market economy, and wide spread use of the English language facilitating greater interaction among our peoples. Our ties have blossomed since India and The Philippines formally established diplomatic relations in November 1949. Under the current dispensation in both countries, there is an active desire to further deepen and broader the relationship, including on regional and multilateral issues.
- Our respective economies are witnessing impressive economic growth, with The Philippines growing at 6.1% in 2014 and India having registered growth of 7.3% in 2014-15. Bilateral trade has reached USD 2 billion and there are encouraging signs in the field of investments as well, which stand at USD 650 million. Indian players such as Tata Motors, Mahindra and GMR now have a presence in The Philippines. We are convinced that our economic cooperation is poised for a leap.
- We are also focusing on facilitating the meeting of hearts and minds of our peoples through exchange of journalists, students, farmers and interaction between our think tanks and Parliamentarians.
- I will not dwell in further detail upon our bilateral relationship as we are here to hear Amb. Garcia's thoughts and perspective on the subject. Today's lecture by Amb. Garcia will examine the current horizon of cooperation and interaction between India and The Philippines and suggest concrete steps to ensure that the level of engagement - bilateral, regional as well as international - continues to deepen and broaden in the years to come.
- I would like to thank the ASEAN-India Centre for organising this edition of the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series and with these words, leave the floor to Amb. Garcia.
Thank you for your attention.