India-ASEAN will remain natural partners: Khursahid

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 19, 2013 15:46 hrs

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India will remain 'natural partners' in defining their perspectives and addressing common requirements of economic growth and prosperity at a time when dynamics 'witnessed unprecedented changes and trends today'.

"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 civilizational 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," Khurshid said while addressing the inaugural session of Delhi Dialogue-V.

"In the recent times, as the global dynamics witness unprecedented changes and trends today, Asia is assuming new responsibilities commensurate with its capacities," he said.

"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," Khurshid said.

"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 of USD 3.8 trillion.

"We have put in place the Free Trade Agreement 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," the External Affairs Minister said.

Speaking on ASEAN-India trade, Khurshid said: "ASEAN-India trade has been growing at over 22% during the last few years, and as much as 37% in 2011-12, which helped cross the target mark of USD 70 billion last year, ahead of time. We are now striving for the target of USD 100 billion by 2015 for ASEAN-India trade."

He said youths should be empowered across the spectrum of higher education, practical skills and vocational training, oriented to trade and technological advancement.

"International terrorism, transnational organized 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," he said.

Khurshid said: "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 Eurozone 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," he said.

He said in the 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," Khurshid said.

"We support the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) so as to contribute to the ASEAN vision of an ASEAN Community by 2015. As integration within ASEAN proceeds, it is also important that integration between ASEAN and India progress apace," he said.

Khurshid said progress and shared prosperity could be reached 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 tomorrow for making geographic borders open to trade and investment and the movement of professionals and experts. We will be continuing our capacity building emphasis in the ASEAN India strategic partnership," he said.

"Development of effective energy systems, ensuring energy access utilizing all forms of energy to all the sections of population, promotion of energy efficiency technologies and use of renewable energy should see urgent prioritization on our cooperative calendar," Khurshid said.

Speaking on the Delhi Dialogue-V, Khurshid said: "Delhi Dialogue-V has emerged as a successful Track 1.5 venue for discussions between government representatives, Track II experts and business representatives on political, economic and security issues of interest to both India and ASEAN.

"Today, Delhi Dialogue V assumes far greater significance since it is the first event after the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in December last year, where we enhanced the level of our relationship to a strategic partnership."

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