`Our growth rates have depressed... but are healthy`

'Our growth rates have depressed... but are healthy'

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 03, 2013 05:59 hrs
A shopkeeper counts Indian currency notes inside his shop in Jammu

Today, Delhi Dialogue-V assumes far greater significance since it is the first event after the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]-India Commemorative Summit in December last year, where we enhanced the level of our relationship to a strategic partnership. The vision statement adopted at the summit presents vast opportunities for stronger cooperation between Asean and India. India's relations with the Asean member countries have seen a constant flow of ideas, culture, knowledge and practices. It has been a two-way civilisational connect and a history of trade, commerce, and educational exchanges. In modern times, we are not only able to rediscover it but also advance it to diverse areas for mutual benefit of peoples of India and Asean region.

In the recent times, as the global dynamics witness unprecedented changes and trends today, Asia is assuming new responsibilities commensurate with its capacities. Political, economic and security structures are evolving globally, and, in a more pronounced manner, in East Asia. Asean and India are and will remain natural partners in defining their perspectives and addressing their common requirements of economic growth and prosperity. India and Asean member countries share a vision of a peaceful, prosperous and resurgent Asia, which contributes to global peace and security. We share a dynamic economic space, which houses a quarter of humanity, and has a combined GDP [gross domestic product] of $3.8 trillion. We have put in place the free trade agreement [FTA] on trade in goods in 2009, and have now concluded negotiations on the FTA on services and investment, which will help create greater synergy between our people, our industry and capacities.

Asean-India trade has been growing at over 22 per cent during the last few years, and as much as 37 per cent in 2011-12, which helped cross the target mark of $70 billion last year, ahead of time. We are now striving for the target of $100 billion by 2015 for Asean-India trade...

We have simultaneously resolved to meet non-traditional challenges and safeguard our collective politico-security environment, important for smooth flow of raw materials, merchandise and energy supplies. Asean-India engagement is proceeding well in the East Asia Summit, Asean Regional Forum, ADMM+ [Asean Plus Defence Ministerial Meeting] and the Expanded Asean Maritime Forum, which are important initiatives for evolving an open and inclusive regional architecture...

International terrorism, transnational organised crime, money laundering, drug-trafficking, information and cyber security issues are today demanding greater collaboration of effort by the international community. With repercussions for global and regional security, these issues require new, innovative solutions that can remain ahead of the growing complexity in these issues.

Brainstorming and finding synergy of interest and effort in these areas is all the more important when we consider the global economic situation. The economic crisis of 2008-09 continues to persist. Our hitherto resilient economies are getting compounded by the euro zone crisis. Our rates of growth have depressed but are still healthy and respectable. Asean member countries and India continue to be growth centres in Asia, widely expected to lead the global economy out of the ongoing economic crisis. Connectivity with Asean - geographical, institutional, or people-to-people - is a strategic priority for India. Relevant mechanisms established under the Asean-India framework to further connectivity, including some at ministerial level, have been held during the commemorative year.

India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project is progressing well. Route alignments for extending this highway to Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Vietnam need to be pursued further. The Mekong-India economic corridor, which will connect the industrial and freight corridors in India with the production networks in the Mekong region through the Chennai-Dawei sea link and the land connectivity to our northeast, will have a beneficial effect on all our economies. These connectivity projects are capital-intensive and we need to think of innovative means of financing them. Public-private partnership is one such method, but there are several other as well...

In this digital age, we also need think of virtual networks as a way forward for connecting the region. We have welcomed the Asean Information and Communications Technology [ICT] Master Plan 2015 and also the efforts to strengthen Asean-India Connectivity in ICT. As a beginning, we are exploring capacity building programmes and sharing best practices in technological development and policy regulations related to e-connectivity.

We support the Initiative for Asean Integration so as to contribute to the vision of an Asean Community by 2015. As integration within Asean proceeds, it is also important that integration between Asean and India progress apace. We have already seen some traction on this as the 6th East Asia Summit called for a "Connectivity Master Plan Plus", which would expand connectivity beyond Asean. We can bring about progress and shared prosperity only when the people of Asean and India are able to co-author Asia's economic growth and resurgence. I would like to hear recommendations for making geographic borders open to trade and investment and the movement of professionals and experts...

Development of effective energy systems, ensuring energy access utilising all forms of energy to all the sections of population, promotion of energy-efficiency technologies and the use of renewable energy should see urgent prioritisation on our cooperative calendar. The meetings held for the first time by my colleagues last year with their Asean counterparts in environment and renewable energy took cognisance of this. To my mind, the current predicament on these issues call for a sharing of expertise and knowledge, capacities and technology, a conviction that India has subscribed to for the last 65 years.

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