India boosts relations with 48-nation ASEM

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 13:10 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) India Friday intensified its relations with the Asia-Europe Meeting, a 48-member grouping, as a meeting of a key ASEM institution ended with the unveiling of 18 cross-cutting projects that will scale up linkages between the two continents in diverse areas.

The 29th board meeting of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the institutional arm and intellectual platform of the ASEM, concluded with senior officials of member countries pledging financial contributions that will finance 18 projects over the next year.

These projects encompass diverse areas, including economy, energy, sustainable development, public health, education, art and culture, Michael Filhol, executive director of the ASEF, told reporters here Friday.

The ASEF translates the political dialogue of the ASEM into more people-to-people cooperation between Asia and Europe and help improve mutual understanding between the two continents, he said.

These projects include, among others, the Asia-Europe Economic Forum, ASEF Public Health Network, Asia-Europe Dialogue on Cultures and an informal seminar on human rights.

India's High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan represented India at the meeting. Sanjay Singh, secretary (east) in India's external affairs ministry, hosted a dinner in honour of the board members Thursday night.

The meeting took place ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to attend the 9th ASEM summit Nov 5.

India's growing stakes in the ASEM, since it joined the grouping in 2007, will be in spotlight when it hosts the meeting of the foreign ministers of ASEM countries in November next year.

India is among top contributors to the ASEF after Japan and the EU.

Ahead of the foreign ministers' meeting, New Delhi will host a meeting of journalists and a seminar on green economy, energy and sustainable development.

"India has been an active member and supported ASEF's activities. Nine ASEF projects have been completed in India," said Roland van Remoortele, ASEF governor for Belgium and current chair of ASEF. He will take over as chairman of the board next year.

ASEM, an inter-regional forum, consists of, among others, the European Commission, the 27 members of the European Union (EU), the thirteen members of the ASEAN plus 3 (Japan, South Korea and China) regional grouping, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Australia, Russia and New Zealand.

ASEF, which seeks to promote greater mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, has completed 500 projects so far, bringing together more than 15,000 direct participants in Asia and Europe.

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