Maritime security, trade on PM's East Asia, ASEAN Summit agenda

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 14, 2012 15:10 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) With 50,000 ships using the international waters in the East Asia region for trade, maritime security will figure high on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's agenda at the 7th East Asia Summit from Nov 18 and possibly in bilateral meetings with US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is travelling to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for the 10th Asean-India summit and the 7th East Asia Summit Nov 18-20. His visit to Japan Nov 15-18 has been postponed due to political developments in that country.

Besides maritime security, the other important sectors for collaboration at the East Asia Summit would be in energy, education, disaster management and pandemics, including tackling malaria, a major killer, said an official of the external affairs ministry here.

"East Asia has emerged as an important dialogue forum in the region on strategic, geo-political issues with the aim of promoting peace and security," said the official.

The prime minister will also discuss regional and international issues with other leaders during retreat sessions at the East Asia Summit, that comprises 18 countries, including the ASEAN as well as India, the US and Russia.

The summit will also consider adoption of a Phnom Penh Declaration as well as one on regional response to malaria control, and on the launch of a regional comprehensive economic partnership, the official added.

At the ASEAN-India Summit, capacity building, connectivity and furthering economic growth and peace and stability will be on the agenda.

"India's Dialogue Partnership with the ASEAN countries is one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Look East Policy," said the official.

Manmohan Singh would meet his ASEAN counterparts Nov 19 for the ASEAN-India Summit where they will take cognizance of their discussions at the last summit in Bali.

With geographical and people-to people connectivity with ASEAN a priority, a trilateral highway is under construction between India, Myanmar and Thailand, which would connect with Moreh in India's northeast with Mae Sot in Thailand.

"We have held a lot of events this year since it is our commemorative year," the official said.

The events include meetings on climate change, renewable energy, agriculture and media exchange programmes.

ASEAN-India trade in 2011-12 was worth $79 billion, surpassing the $70 billion target set earlier, he informed media persons.

India and ASEAN have a Free Trade Agreement in goods, inked in 2009 and which became operational in 2011, and negotiations are on on an FTA in services and investments, he added.

Asked about the status of the FTA on services and investments, the official said that India's ministry of commerce was in negotiations on the agreement, but he declined to say anything more.

India has been participating in the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN defence ministers forum plus and the extended ASEAN maritime forum meeting as part of its ongoing agenda to tackle non traditional threats like piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism, he added.

At the East Asia Summit, an update on the Nalanda University will also be provided. The university is coming up in Bihar's Nalanda. A steering committee is overseeing its global design, he said.

To a question on whether a code of conduct on how countries behave in the South China Sea would affect India, the official said that the code of conduct was between ASEAN and China and India was in no way involved.

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