Mr Co-Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. On behalf on my ASEAN colleagues, I would like to warmly welcome His Excellency, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Mr Jaswant Singh, to Manila on the occasion of the 31st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting/Post Ministerial Conference.

  2. It has only been two years since the 1996 AMM/PMC in Jakarta when India made its debut as a Full Dialogue Partner of ASEAN. But we have developed a firm foundation for a more substantive ASEAN-India Dialogue. The many constructive meetings that we have held in this short period of time attests to the resolve of both sides to inject more substance into the relationship.
  3. ASEAN and India held their first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) in February 1998 in New Delhi. The meeting was significant as it represented the first ever political dialogue with India at the senior officials’ level. It reviewed the progress of ASEAN-India co-operation and discussed many issues of mutual interest. The ASEAN-India SOM is an essential platform for us to discuss political and security issues of common concern. I see this forum building confidence and nurturing habits of cooperation. This augurs well for ASEAN-India ties.
  4. The Second ASEAN-India Joint Co-operation Committee (JCC) Meeting was held in April this year in Singapore. We had an opportunity to take stock of what we have achieved so far in development co-operation and chart its future directions. We agreed that human resource development, science and technology and people-to-people contacts should be the key areas of interest to be pursued in future. India also wanted to engage ASEAN in the area of infrastructure development. With this agreed focus, ASEAN-India development co-operation can only further broaden and deepen.
  5. The first meeting of the ASEAN-India Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI) was held from 25-26 May 98 in New Delhi. The meeting was exploratory in nature, and provided an opportunity for the economic officials from both sides to have a better understanding of each other’s interests and pre-occupations.
  6. Our governments can provide the framework for enhancing economic co-operation. The private sector must take the lead. The regular exchange of views between the members of the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) is a good starting point. I also understand that a Small And Medium Enterprise (SME) Partenariat has been proposed for later this year in New Delhi, and that ASEAN and India have indicated their willingness to assist ASEAN SMEs by using the ASEAN-India Fund to defray the participation fee. As the Partenariat is an important forum for our ASEAN and Indian SMEs to network, we must work together to ensure the success of this project.
  7. In the field of science and technology, I am happy to learn that a number of projects have already taken off. For example, the co-operation in advanced materials on magnets. ASEAN is also happy that India is committed to provide training in informatics and await India’s response on the reformulated Informatics Training Centre proposal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. The ASEAN-India relationship is proceeding well on several fronts. We are now focussing on those areas with the greatest potential for mutual benefit. With the SOM, the JCC and the Working Groups on Science and Technology and, Trade and Investment all functioning actively, I am confident that this relationship will grow substantially.
  2. ASEAN faces serious economic challenges. We are determined to overcome them. Our economic fundamentals are sound. We have hardworking populations and pro-business governments. We will surmount present difficulties and emerge even stronger, poised for rapid growth. I would like to take this opportunity to thank India for expressing its solidarity with ASEAN in our efforts to overcome the crisis and for offering various measures for sustaining ASEAN-India trade and investment flows during this difficult period. ASEAN is steadily dismantling tariffs to realise the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) by 2003. 1 would like to urge the Indian government to continue lowering its tariffs so as to facilitate ASEAN-India trade.
  3. In closing, let me reiterate on behalf of my ASEAN colleagues that we believe that there is great potential for the ASEAN-India Dialogue. We should work closely together to enhance the lives of our peoples through greater co-operation in areas of mutual interest. By co-operating with each other, we will in the process better understand each other. This will form the bedrock of a closer and stronger ASEAN-India relationship.