H. E. General Tanasak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand,
H.E. Dr. Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia,
H.E. Mr. Fachir, Vice Foreign Minister of Indonesia,
H.E. Mr. Lwin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar,
H.E. Dr. Mochtan, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN
Hon'ble Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri Ibobi Singh,
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Nabam Tuki
Hon'ble Minister for Planning and Development of Assam, Ms. Ajanta Neog,Representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I extend a warm welcome to all of you to the seventh edition of the Delhi Dialogue.
- Over the past six years, the Delhi Dialogue has emerged as India’s pre-eminent, ASEAN-centric Track 1.5 forum where we, the policy makers, along with stalwarts from academia and think tanks, from both India and ASEAN Member States, have been exchanging ideas and perspectives on how we can build upon the robust partnership that already exists between India and ASEAN. This has benefited us tremendously.
- For ASEAN, the year 2015 is a key milestone in its journey towards establishing a close-knit ASEAN Community. It also coincides with a decade of the East Asia Summit process - an ASEAN-driven, Leaders-led forum, to address strategic, political and economic issues of regional and global import.
- For us too, the year has started with a new development in our relationship with ASEAN. In January this year we established our independent Mission to ASEAN, which is reflective of our commitment to further intensify our engagement with the ASEAN. We also expect that the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment signed last September will enter into force later this year. This will complete our Free Trade Area with ASEAN and bring greater economic integration between our countries.
- The new-found salience of our engagement with our eastern neighbourhood and beyond is evident from the fact that at the 12th India-ASEAN Summit and 9th East Asia Summit in Myanmar in November 2014, our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi underscored our Government’s resolve to move with a great sense of priority and speed to transform India’s hitherto ‘Look East Policy’ into an ‘Act East Policy.’
- ASEAN lies at the core of India's Act East Policy and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century. Since the launch of our Look East Policy in the early 1990s, we have matured from being Sectoral Dialogue Partners to being Strategic Partners. We cherish the deep and abiding historical and civilizational links that anchor our relationship. At the same time, we are focusing on reorienting our partnership in the 21st century context to make it more pragmatic, action driven and result oriented. For this we need to intensify our cooperation in security, trade, investment, connectivity and capacity building and strengthening people-to-people linkages. I would focus my remarks today on these areas.
- As countries inhabiting a contiguous geographical space, India and ASEAN Member States share several common traditional and non-traditional security challenges. We are consciously forging concrete collaboration, both bilaterally and through such ASEAN-led fora as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), to ensure regional peace and security.
- India has been co-chairing various inter-sessional meetings and workshops under the ARF and ADMM Plus. At the third EAS Workshop in Jakarta last year, India presented a paper on a dialogue-based, open, transparent and cooperative Regional Security Architecture. We have also consciously striven to step up our consultations with ASEAN mechanisms dealing with terrorism and other transnational crimes. Following up on my commitment at the third meeting of the ASEAN-India Network of Think-tanks in Hanoi last August, we hosted the first ever India-ASEAN cyber-security Conference in New Delhi in January 2015. I would like to thank all ASEAN countries and the ASEAN Secretariat for their participation in the Conference.
- We have also enhanced our participation in various Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercises undertaken under the rubric of EAS, ARF and ADMM Plus. In December 2014, we organised an EAS 24x7 Points of Contact Meeting in New Delhi and also launched a Virtual Knowledge Portal dealing with disaster management.
- India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have also been growing steadily. ASEAN is India's fourth largest trading partner. Our annual trade stood at over US$ 76 billion in 2013, having registered an average growth of 22% per annum over the past decade. The defining characteristic of our trade relationship is that it is largely balanced, which reflects the strong complementarities of our export-driven manufacturing industries.
- The signing of a FTA in Goods in 2009 has given a spurt to bilateral trade. However, we need to make a special effort to achieve our target of enhancing trade to US$ 100 billion by 2015, and our aspiration to double it to US$ 200 billion by 2022. We will have to significantly augment the utilisation level of the Agreement on Trade in Goods and further liberalise the tariff lines. I am glad that the process has started to revive the ASEAN-India Trade Negotiations Committee to kick-start these discussions.
- Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 12.5% of investment flows into India since 2000. FDI outflows from India to ASEAN countries over the last 7 years were over US$ 31 billion while FDI equity inflows into India from ASEAN countries during this period were over US$ 25 billion.
- As our Government actively works to ease norms for doing business under its ‘Make in India’ initiative new vistas for investments from ASEAN into India are opening up. ASEAN companies could look for investments in a large number of sectors such as smart cities, roads and highways, ports, railways, power and urban infrastructure. The India-ASEAN Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment will also unleash large potential for mutual investment. Similarly, we will also encourage our businesses to seize the investment opportunities presented by an economically integrated ASEAN.
- We are committed to engaging ourselves in constructive discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which involves ASEAN and its 6 dialogue partners, to ensure its early fruition with a balanced outcome. I understand that the B-to-B Session held earlier in the day as a curtain raiser to DD VII was productive and covered some of the issues mentioned be me.
- Enhancing connectivity between India and ASEAN in all its aspects - physical, institutional and people-to-people, is a key strategic priority for us. Our North-Eastern region is our land-bridge to the ASEAN, and I am delighted that the Chief Ministers of so many states from the region have spared their valuable time to be with us this evening to contribute to our deliberations.
- We also have maritime boundaries with several ASEAN countries, and this is particularly important from a trade perspective. We have started negotiations on an ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement, and hope that it will be finalised by the end of the year.
- We have made progress in implementing the Trilateral Highway project which proposes to provide seamless connectivity from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. We have also started negotiations on an India-Myanmar-Thailand Transit Transport Agreement to address soft connectivity issues.
- Likewise, work is in progress on the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project which will provide a road and riverine link between Myanmar and Mizoram as well as connect Indian ports to Sittwe port in Myanmar. Our experiment with a dedicated fortnightly freighter service with Myanmar has proven to be a commercial success. We plan to commission a study soon to see if this experiment can be replicated, both for cargo and passenger services, with other Southeast Asian countries.
- We are also looking to expand air connectivity, particularly between our North East and Southeast Asia.
- We are simultaneously endeavouring to see how we can transform the corridors of connectivity into corridors of economic cooperation. In this context, our Prime Minister announced, at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit, establishing a Special Facility to facilitate project financing and quick implementation of connectivity projects. We are currently working out the modalities of this Special Facility.
- Our Government has, meanwhile, also announced in the budget speech for this year, an SPV for setting up of manufacturing hubs and capacity building in CLMV countries.
- A host of joint projects for functional cooperation in sectors ranging from agriculture to environment to ICT are underway, utilising the three dedicated Funds we have set up for ASEAN.
- We are about to commence implementation of a space project, which will be the largest project under the ASEAN-India Fund, involving establishment of a Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam by ISRO; upgrading of the Biak Station in Indonesia; as well as provision of training for space personnel from all ASEAN countries.
- We will continue our assistance for human resource development and capacity building under the ITEC and Colombo Plan, the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Quick Impact Fund initiative and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Cooperation (BIMSTEC). I am pleased to announce five new ITEC slots for the ASEAN Secretariat with effect from 2015.
- We are also in the process of establishing Centres of Excellence in Software Development and Training and Centres for English Language Training in CLMV countries under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration - Narrowing Development Gap. This week, our project team is in Lao PDR and Vietnam, holding discussions with the host government on the establishment of these Centres of Excellence.
- Our endeavour in our joint projects is to foster a spirit of co-ownership of the projects among institutions from India and ASEAN Member States.
- Fostering people-to-people linkages remains at the heart of India's engagement with ASEAN. We will continue efforts to build upon the existing programmes for regular exchange of students, journalists, farmers, scholars and academics. I would like to acknowledge, at this point, the presence of a delegation of ASEAN journalists amongst us, who are visiting India under the annual ASEAN-India Media Exchange Programme.
- We host the ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi and have also been extending modest financial support to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia annually since its inception. Going forward, we will explore ideas on how to further expand civil society interaction and collaboration.Excellencies and Friends,
- Our excellent bilateral ties with our ASEAN partners, which are largely "sans irritants,” have laid a strong foundation for our Act East Policy. As ASEAN engages in charting out its post-2015 roadmap, our officials are also working on drafting the ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-2021, to translate the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership Vision into concrete action. I therefore believe that the theme for Delhi Dialogue VII, "ASEAN-India: Shaping the Post-2015 Agenda” is very apt.
- I look forward to hearing the thoughts of my colleagues from ASEAN countries and our North Eastern States on how we can collectively shape our post 2015 agenda for greater progress and prosperity of our peoples and countries. I am confident that the deliberations this evening and tomorrow on various aspects of our multidimensional engagement, will provide invaluable inputs for shaping our forward-looking agenda for the next five years.
I thank you for your attention.