The 13th ASEAN-India Summit held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 21 November 2015 provided yet another opportunity for Prime Minister Modi to interact with the Leaders of ASEAN countries. His first interaction with them was at Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in November 2014 for the 12th ASEAN-India Summit.
PM’s participation at both the ASEAN-India Summit and the East Asia Summit that followed on 22 November, reflected the importance that India attaches to ASEAN and its role in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
The tangible progress in the ASEAN-India partnership after the announcement of India's 'Act East Policy' last year was warmly welcomed by ASEAN Leaders at the ASEAN-India Summit.
PM reviewed ASEAN-India cooperation and its future direction with the ASEAN leadership.
The new Plan of Action (2016-2020) to further enhance ASEAN-India cooperation along the three verticals of politico-security, economic and socio-cultural relations, which was adopted at the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in August 2015, was taken note of by the Leaders.
The entry into force of the ASEAN-India Trade-in-Services and Investment Agreements on 1st July 2015, realization of the ASEAN Community by end 2015 (on which the KL Declaration was signed in the margins of the ASEAN Summit), and the expected finalization of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in 2016, present tremendous potential to substantially upgrade the ASEAN-India trade and investment relationship. Singapore, in particular, urged for an early conclusion of an RCEP for India’s greater economic integration with the region.
As you may be aware, the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment were signed in the second half of 2014 and have come into force on 1 July 2015 for India, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Viet Nam and Thailand. Lao PDR has also completed the ratification process of the Agreement on Trade in Services which came into force for it on 15 September 2015. The remaining ASEAN countries have been asked to expedite their ratification processes.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), on the other hand, is a Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and its 6 FTA partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. India supports a high quality, modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial RCEP.
Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman led the Indian delegation at the RCEP Ministerial Meetings in Kuala Lumpur in July and August 2015, which saw significant breakthroughs, with the modalities in good, services and investment being agreed.
In the margins of the ASEAN-India Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister participated in a short ceremony in which a Joint Statement instructing Ministers to work towards early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations was adopted.
At the 13th ASEAN-India Summit, CLMV countries expressed deep appreciation for India’s role in their development and in narrowing the intra-ASEAN development gap by undertaking a variety of capacity building projects, especially in IT, Space and English language training.
PM also conveyed that India intended to create a Project Development Fund to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries, which Ministry of Commerce and Industry is currently working on.
Leaders agreed that enhancing connectivity – both physical and digital –between their regions was a strategic priority and in this regard, PM announced a US$ 1 billion Line of Credit for connectivity projects. This would be a huge opportunity for our business community to examine and use to mutual benefit.
PM further announced the enhancement of the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from the current US$ 1 million to US$ 5 million. A significant chunk of this would go towards creation of an Innovation Platform. This is again something that our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Start-ups could take advantage of.
Building upon the existing Space project being undertaken in Vietnam under the ASEAN-India Fund, PM also offered the navigation services of GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) to ASEAN countries.
Addressing the common concern of climate change and the shared interest in renewable energy, PM sought cooperation of ASEAN countries in establishing of the International Agency for Solar Technology and Applications (INSTA), which he launched the following week in Paris with French President Hollande. PM also offered capacity building to ASEAN countries in renewable energy, solar mapping of the region and assistance with establishment of solar powered villages.
To further enhance the study of socio-cultural linkages between India and ASEAN, PM announced setting up of an ASEAN Studies Centre at the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong. This would supplement the existing ASEAN India Centre in New Delhi and the soon to be established ASEAN India Trade and Investment Centre under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
PM further conveyed extension of the e-visa facility to all ASEAN countries in order to promote people-to-people contacts and tourism, which is a lucrative sector of cooperation and in which we can learn a lot from ASEAN’s success.
No development can take place without peace and stability. With this in mind, Leaders agreed on the need to bolster security cooperation between ASEAN and India.
Cooperation in combating terrorism and other transnational crimes and non-traditional security threats such as piracy, cyber-crime, climate change and disaster management, is being enhanced.
ASEAN-India relations have matured to mutual satisfaction as we approach the 25th anniversary of the relationship in 2017. With Vietnam taking over as Country Coordinator for India for the period 2015-18, following an exemplary stewardship of the relationship by Brunei from 2012-15, we hope to raise the bar further to strengthen the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.