Despite mounting calls for a separate Indian mission to the Association of South-East Asian nations (Asean)which has been demanded by the powerful regional bloc, New Delhi has so far demurred.
But the demand has recently picked up momentum, after being one of the top recommendations made by the 15-member Asean India Eminent Persons Group (EPG) last month in Phnom Penh. According to the EPG’s recommendations on political and security cooperation, India should “establish its separate diplomatic mission, with an Ambassador accredited to the Asean residing in Jakarta, to further facilitate the enhanced dialogue partnership cooperation in all the three pillars of the Asean community”.
The proposition is significant, as officials said that the EPG report will be the basis for the ‘Vision Document’ which will be unveiled at the Asean-India commemorative summit scheduled for December 20-21.
“This is a suggestion right now, but it definitely has weight by virtue of being included in the EPG’s report,” said a senior Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) official.
Currently, the bilateral trade between India and the Asean is pegged at over $80 billion. And the free trade agreement(FTA) in services, which is expected to be signed during the summit, will give it a further fillip to the trade ties between the two sides.