ASEAN Secretariat, 4 May 2010
H.E. Biren Nanda, Ambassador of the Republic of India to the Republic of Indonesia
H.E. Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India on Climate Change and Former Foreign Secretary
Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Strategic Affairs Editor, Indian Express
Dr. Ram Upendra Das, Senior Fellow of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)
Prof. Fukunari Kimura, Chief Economist, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)
Distinguished Guests, and Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first, on behalf of H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, warmly welcome all of you to the ASEAN Secretariat and to the Panel Discussion on “Advancing ASEAN-India Partnership”. We are pleased to host this public event at the ASEAN Secretariat to further expound on strengthening the vibrant ASEAN-India dialogue relations as well as to promote the ASEAN Secretariat as the nerve centre for the activities of the ASEAN Community.
I am pleased to note that we have a distinguished panel of speakers today who are well-known in their respective fields. The richness of the panel and the constructive contribution of the audience to the discussion will certainly provide us good insights, ideas and initiatives to further fortify ASEAN-India dialogue relations especially in today’s context where the growth pole is shifting from the from the West to the East.
Developments in ASEAN
I would like to take a few moments to provide you an update on the overall developments that are taking place in ASEAN. The ASEAN Member States have made significant progress despite the many challenges facing the region. The entry into force of the ASEAN Charter on 15 December 2008 marked a new beginning for a rules-based ASEAN providing the much needed legal personality to facilitate the building of the ASEAN Community. The ASEAN Community Roadmap consisting of the Blueprints adopted for the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community as well as the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and Work Plan II is being implemented earnestly. In addition to this, a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity is being developed by the High Level Task Force on ASEAN Connectivity that will focus on enhancing linkages within ASEAN and with our partners in the key areas of infrastructure, energy, information communications technology and trade facilitation.
ASEAN has been exerting concerted efforts since the Charter came into force to ensure that appropriate mechanisms and processes are in place for building a more rules-based regime in ASEAN. In this connection, four ministerial councils, one each to oversee the work of the three Communities and another for overall coordination of the work of the ASEAN Community, have been established. These councils are being supported by the Committee of Permanent Representative to ASEAN who are stationed in Jakarta. The ASEAN Secretariat works closely with them to implement the comprehensive regional agenda. A scorecard system for the ASEAN Economic Community had been established and the first public scorecard has been issued by ASEAN last month. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community is working on its own scorecard. These scorecards will play a crucial role in ensuring compliance to regional commitments made by Member States.
ASEAN economic integration has also received a shot in the arm with the full recovery of ASEAN Member States from the global financial and economic crisis. In fact, ASEAN is expected to achieve a V-shaped recovery if the global situation continues to improve. The impressive performance in the first quarter of 2010 by ASEAN Member States especially those which were more export dependent and were more affected by the crisis in 2009 attest to this strong recovery. ASEAN is expected to achieve an average economic growth rate of 4.9% to 5.6% in 2010 after posting an anaemic 1.5% growth in 2009. This was partly supported by the impact of the fiscal and monetary stimulus packages of ASEAN Member States as well as the growing domestic demand and revival of exports. But ASEAN will have to be vigilant to any downside risks that may emerge.
Trade integration continues to be driver of the ASEAN Community building efforts. In this regard, as of 1 January 2010, the ASEAN-6 countries have achieved zero tariffs and the CLMV have attained almost 99% at 0-5% tariff rates of the total tariff lines traded under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) making this the most tangible high-impact outcome for ASEAN.
1 January 2010 also saw the realisation of the ASEAN-China and ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the commencement of the implementation of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA apart from the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement. The improved market access and economic development under the various FTAs will further cement the growing trade, investment and economic cooperation between ASEAN and its FTA partners. ASEAN is now looking at a wider free trade agreement covering the ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit (EAS) countries. This is expected to increase trade, investment and economic cooperation further as East Asia integrates, undertakes internal reforms and improves on its connectivity especially with the ongoing economic rebalancing where domestic consumption within East Asia is expected to increase and promote further intra-regional trade and investment.
I would not be doing justice if I do not mention to all of you that the USD 120 billion Chiang Mai Initiative Multi-lateralisation (CMIM) has come into effect on 24 March 2010 to assist any of the ASEAN Plus Three countries should they be facing short-term balance of payment liquidity problems as well as the US$ 700 million Credit Guarantee Investment Facility (CGIF) to support bond market development that was launched by the ASEAN Plus Three Finance Ministers in Tashkent on 2 May 2010. We also had a productive Informal EAS finance ministers meeting in Tashkent where Ministers agreed to further continue capacity building in finance cooperation among EAS countries.
Consistent with building a peoples-oriented community, ASEAN has established successfully the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) as well as the ASEAN Commission on the Protection of the Rights of Women and Children. The AICHR is now developing its Rules of Procedure and its five-year Work Plan for the period 2010-2015.
In the past year, development in ASEAN has brought benefits to both ASEAN and its external partners. In line with ASEAN’s goal and objective of building an open, transparent and inclusive Community, the ASEAN Charter provides for the accreditation of Ambassadors to ASEAN from friendly countries that desire to strengthen ties with the region. So far 33 countries and the EU have accredited their Ambassadors to ASEAN who serve as interlocutors between ASEAN and their respective countries.
One key preoccupation of ASEAN is to ensure that it continues to be the hub and driver of regional mechanisms and processes in the evolving architecture in East Asia. ASEAN’s stewardship of regional process in East Asia has benefitted all partners and its community building efforts will bring further tangible benefits to the wider region. The multi-layered regional architecture that ASEAN has put in place h
as served the region well and has helped to build the foundations necessary for wider integration in the future. ASEAN hopes to continue working with its partners to further enhance East Asia cooperation that will benefit all parties as well as our friends and partners outside East Asia.
Advancing ASEAN-India Relations
Let me now touch on the key subject of today’s Panel Discussion, which is advancing ASEAN-India dialogue relations. ASEAN has vigorously pursued engagement with all Dialogue and Development Partners over the past four decades of its existence. In this regard, ASEAN attaches great importance to its relations with India. ASEAN’s outward-looking policy towards its community building endeavour and India’s “Look East Policy” adopted in 1991 has worked well for the blossoming of our mutually beneficial partnership.
Amid the policy landscape and high-level political commitments, ASEAN-India dialogue relations have grown rapidly from a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1992 to a full dialogue partnership in December 1995. The relationship was elevated to a strategic level with the convening of the annual ASEAN-India Summit since 2002. All these developments took place in one decade, which clearly signifies the importance of the dialogue partnership to both sides.
ASEAN and India will also celebrate 15 years of productive dialogue relations and cooperation at the end of this year. There is a cause for celebration as the partnership has attained a number of milestones. Let me enumerate them.
Firstly, India’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) in October 2003 reflects the recognition of India by ASEAN as a major player in the region and the strong commitment and valuable contribution India is making to regional peace and stability.
Secondly, the signing of the Joint Declaration for Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism between ASEAN and India on the same occasion as India’s TAC accession symbolises the determination of both sides to step up cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Combating terrorism requires concerted efforts of all countries given its transboundary nature, and the adverse impact it has on the very fabric of our society. The strong determination of ASEAN and India to cooperate in fighting terrorism signifies the value that we place on the continued peace and harmony of our region crucial for our development.
Thirdly, as a true reflection of the interest to intensify their engagement, ASEAN and India signed the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity in November 2004, which sets out the roadmap for their long-term engagement. The first Plan of Action to implement the roadmap was successfully completed and a second plan is now being developed, taking into account the current developments and realities especially the global financial crisis and evolving political and economic landscape.
Fourthly, the ASEAN- India Trade in Goods Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2010 covering a market of over 1.8 billion people and GDP of about US$ 2.75 trillion. Both sides are now working towards the early conclusion of services and investment agreements as a single undertaking. Once the two agreements also come into force, ASEAN-India trade which is now US$41 billion is expected to grow even faster especially since our trade is growing at a phenomenal rate of 28% annually.
Fifthly, India has and is contributing immensely by assisting ASEAN in bridging the development gaps among its lesser developed members of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) through various projects such as Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC) and Centres for English Language Training (CELT). We acknowledge India’s contribution to ASEAN under the IAI and express our deep appreciation for this. We also recognise India’s leadership in the sectors of ICT, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and traditional medicines. These are areas for greater engagement and collaboration that will greatly benefit ASEAN through technology transfer and know-how.
Sixthly, India continues to vigorously pursue her ‘Look East Policy’ by becoming a participant of the EAS comprising ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand in 2005. It is a member of the Asia-Europe Meeting since 2008 and is also seeking membership in APEC in 2010. India is already a member of G-20 which is increasingly shaping the new global economic order. All this augurs well for ASEAN as this indicates that India values significantly its “Look East Policy” and ASEAN is on the radar of emerging India.
In closing, ASEAN and India have made impressive progress in the last 15 years to buttress their dialogue relations. This signifies the will and readiness of both sides to further strengthen the comprehensive partnership covering political and security, economic, social and cultural and development cooperation, especially in today’s shifting global landscape.
While there are many opportunities and immense potentials for strengthening ASEAN-India relations, there are also challenges that both sides will have to meet to ensure the momentum of their partnership is unimpeded. Here is where we have to think creatively as the world and our region will require new strategies and approaches that will ensure that Asia continues to grow and play a key and decisive role in global growth and development as the current global recovery from the crisis led by Asia is attesting.
ASEAN is inspired by the positive developments in India and I am sure India is also inspired by the dynamic developments in ASEAN. When the two regions open their eyes, minds and hearts to one another buttressed by their historical links, cultural affinities, kinships, and today’s economic realities coupled with the shared approaches on how to deal with them, I am sure we can’t go in any other direction in our relations but on an upward trajectory. As Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “we live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventure that we can have only if seek them with our eyes open.” I believe when Pandit Nehru mentioned eyes, he is also referring to hearts and minds.
The ASEAN Secretariat stands ever ready to facilitate the ASEAN-India partnership and we look forward to working with our Member States and India on the various activities to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of ASEAN-India relations. ASEAN and India are a young but matured couple and therefore they have many more good years ahead in this strategic “marriage”.
I wish all of you a productive panel discussion and the ASEAN Secretariat and I look forward to receiving your pertinent recommendations to further enhance the growing ties between the two dynamic regions in our part of the world.