With Asia again becoming the focus of global geopolitics, India is likely to announce a strategic partnership with the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc at the Asean-India commemorative summit here on Thursday.
According to sources, the strategic partnership would be announced as part of a Vision Statement, to be released by the 11 leaders assembled here, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The announcement of a strategic partnership was the first recommendation made in the report of the Asean-India Eminent Persons Group, which official sources said formed the basis for drafting the Vision Statement.
The commemorative summit, to be organised on a grand scale, would mark 20 years since India associated itself with the Asean as a sectoral dialogue partner. India has been trying to add muscle to its Look East Policy, with intensive interaction with countries across the region by cooperating in sectors from defence to textiles.
So far, Asean has concluded strategic partnerships with three East Asian economies -- China, Japan and South Korea. For India, a strategic partnership would mean giving a bigger political and security dimension to its relationship with the region, which has so far been confined to the economic sphere.
Maritime security would be a buzzword at the summit and emphasis would given to freedom of navigation and access to resources in the region. India had become embroiled in the South China Sea dispute involving several Asean countries and China, as the state explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd has an offshore block near the Vietnamese coast.
Official sources said the leaders were likely to announce a new target of $100 billion for intra India-Asean trade by 2015. Trade ties have increased by leaps and bounds, crossing $79 billion in 2011-12. India has been pushing for completion of negotiations over the Asean free trade agreement on services and investment, so that it could be the ‘big ticket’ item to be showcased at the summit.Negotiations are expected to go on till the last minute as Indonesia and Philippines have given a separate framework.
Sources said India would continue to focus on the less developed economies in the Asean.
Meanwhile, preparations are on for the event, the biggest gathering of heads of states here since the NAM summit of the 1980s. The plenary session would be held at a five-star hotel.