Trade and connectivity dominated the proceedings at India’s annual stock taking exercise with the Asean countries on Wednesday, where all the participants pitched for an “early conclusion” of the free trade agreement (FTA) on services and investment.
“We believe that the early conclusion of the Asean-India Services and Investment Agreements would give a strong fillip to our economic engagement,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the high-level gathering at the Peace Palace in the Vietnamese capital.
And the conclave was co-chaired by Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
According to Krishna, New Delhi’s ties with the Asean is a “key cornerstone of its foreign policy and the foundation of India’s Look East policy”.“We have attempted to anchor this within the larger context of Asia as an engine for global growth and prosperity,” he added.
And Krishna pointed out that the economic ties between the two sides had prospered inspite of the global economic downturn. “The story of economic growth in our partnership is meeting expectations despite the global economic downturn. Two-way trade between Asean and India in 2011-12 touched reached $80 billion.”
Sources, meanwhile, indicated that at the closed door session, Vietnam and Singapore, in particular, underlined the need for a full-fledged FTA as it would give further impetus to the economic trade.
Besides, the summit-level talks centered on the need for ensuring better connectivity between India and the Asean member states. And Krishna along with the other participants called for further improvement in road, sea, digital and people- to- people connectivity. “This is an imperative if we are to reinforce the economic foundations in our region for collective progress and prosperity,” the External Affairs Minister added.
New Delhi also articulated its plans for improving connectivity through the various proposed road projects in Myanmar. And in December, India is scheduled to host the Asean-India commemorative summit to mark two decades of dialogue partnership and ten years of summit parntership.
In a bid to highlight the issue of connectivity, New Delhi will host an Asean-India car rally which will kick-off from Yogakarta in Indonesia on November 25 and conclude at Guwahati on December 17. The 7500 km-long rally will pass through all the Asean member states, except for Philippines and Brunei. Furthermore, Naval training ship Sudarshini will embark on a sailing expedition to nine Asean countries.