India, 13 February 2012
Your Honourable Shri S. M. Krishna, Minister for External Affairs of India;
Your Excellency Mr. HOR Nam Hong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia;
Your Excellency Surapong Tovichakchaicul, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand;
Your Excellency Masagos Zulfikli bin Masagos Mohammad, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Singapore;
Your Honorable Senator A. Kohilan Pillay, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia
H.E. Dr. Myo Myint, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar,
H.E. Ms. Nguyen Phoung Nga, Deputy Foreign Minister, Viet Nam;
Ambassadors/Permanent Representative of ASEAN;
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of Secretary General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, I have the honour to express my deep appreciation to the Government and People of India for the hospitality given to my delegation.
ASEAN’s relations with India go well beyond economic and commercial issues. We share common values of democracy, respect for civil liberties and rule of law. We have healthy and frank exchanges on political and security issues of bilateral, regional and global importance.
The countries of ASEAN and India share special history of friendly relations dating back to “the Great Ashoka”. They both share the cross-roads culture, situated as they are at the intersections of major land and sea routes.
This enabled a dense and free flow of peoples, merchandise, cultures and ideas among them. Over hundred years, each country drew inspiration from the genius of the others and contributed to the cultural enrichment and advancement of our entire region.
We are pleased to observe that India has been an important partner of ASEAN since 1992 and ASEAN has attached great importance to the relationship and partnership with India. This year, ASEAN and India will mark 20th Anniversary of their Dialogue Partnership with, among others, a symbolic and meaningful “Commemorative Summit” in India.
As provided for in the ASEAN Charter and based on the strong foundation of the ASEAN-India relations, India has accredited an Ambassador of India to ASEAN, who works closely to facilitate and contribute to substantiating ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership.
I am delighted to note that the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representative is now in operation to engage actively in ASEAN-India relations, and to explore ways to widen and deepen existing cooperation between ASEAN and India.
Now coming specifically to the area of economic cooperation. The total volume of ASEAN-India trade in 2010 was US$ 55.4 billion, a growth of over 41.8 % from 2009. This accounted for 2.7% of the total ASEAN trade in 2010. As for foreign direct investment (FDI), the inflow from India to ASEAN Member States was US$ 2.58 billion, an increase of 221.6% from US$811.18 milion in 2009 .
This accounted for 3.4 % of the total FDI into ASEAN in 2010 . Despite impact of the global financial/economic crisis, India remained the seventh largest trading partner of ASEAN and the sixth largest investor in ASEAN in 2009.
ASEAN-India Functional Cooperation
In the areas of practical cooperation, over the past 5 years, ASEAN and India have carried out concrete activities in the form of joint programme and projects through the implementation of the Plan of Action (PoA) to implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity.
Since the adoption of the first Plan of Action in 2004, a number of projects and programmes worth over US$ 6 million have been implemented in several important areas.
For the next several years towards 2015, the timeline when ASEAN is aimed to realize the ASEAN Community, as announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in October 2009, India has pledged to contribute US$ 50 million to the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund to implement the new five-year joint Plan of Action (2010-2015).
ASEAN Connectivity and Community Building: India’s possible role
I would miss the opportunity if I cannot mention India’s possible role in ASEAN Connectivity and Community Building. ASEAN is embarking on a bold and long-term strategy to improve the region’s physical, institutional and people-to-people connection. Enhanced ASEAN Connectivity would promote ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture, facilitate the building of an ASEAN Community and serve as a foundation for a more enhanced connectivity beyond the region.
To realize the ASEAN Connectivity initiative, ASEAN Leaders called on external partners, multilateral development banks, regional and global funds, the private sector and other parties to take part directly in the implementation of the Master Plan. ASEAN will be developing an implementation plan to translate the key actions into specific activities or projects. What is important is the development of viable or bankable projects, particularly for those under physical connectivity. The support of our external partners, including India, is essential.
Estimate of Infrastructure Requirements in the ASEAN Connectivity
Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) in the study, Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia, estimated that “between 2010 and 2020, Asia needs to invest approximately US$ 8 trillion in overall national infrastructure.
In addition, Asia needs to spend approximately $290 billion on specific regional infrastructure projects in transport and energy that are in the pipeline. ASEAN countries will require infrastructure investments amounting to US$596 billion during 2006–2015, with an average investment of US$60 billion per year. A 20% reduction in logistics costs would increase the share of trade in GDP by more than 10 per cent.”
Air connectivity is an important area where there is immense potential. Both ASEAN and India have expressed keen interest in an Open Skies regime.
The ASEAN-India Aviation Cooperation Framework has been laid down and the next logical step is to conclude the ASEAN-India Air Services Agreement as soon as possible.
Tourism is another key area of enhanced cooperation. The Indian “wedding tourists”– who are travelers, either to attend a wedding or post – wedding travelers (honeymooners) are a common sight in ASEAN countries. This is reflected in the steady growth of tourism between ASEAN and India. For example in 2009, the number of tourist arrivals from India to ASEAN recorded over 2 million tourists.
The establishment of the ASEAN Tourism Promotional Chapter (APCT) in Mumbai besides consolidating the gains achieved so far would also work as an important collaborativ
e platform for ASEAN National Tourism Organizations to market ASEAN to the Indian consumers. With further enhanced connectivity, we can expect stronger number of tourist arrivals.
I believe that ASEAN and India should look at infrastructural development within their respective regions and together in connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia. We may have to work with our research institutes such as multilateral development banks (Asian Development Bank and World Bank) and Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) to make this possible. One example is the Mekong-India Economic Corridor (MIEC) conceptualized by ERIA.
This involves integrating the four Greater Mekong countries viz. Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with India through its east coast. It is proposed to connect Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) with Dawei (Myanmar) via Bangkok (Thailand) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and further linking to Chennai in India. This is likely to add greater momentum to the growing trade and investment linkages between ASEAN and India.
I would conclude by summarizing some points as follows:
First, 20 Years of ASEAN-India Partnership has yielded mutual benefits for both sides. Yet we cannot afford to be complacent and the vast potentials for this Partnership await us to further tap to its fullest.
Second, the ASEAN Community building process, the commitments made towards the ASEAN Connectivity and the evolving regional architecture have now presented both challenges for us to work together to overcome, and opportunities to seize and utilize for our mutual benefits.
Third, the countries of ASEAN and India welcome the growing role of Asia in the global economy and in international affairs. This generates both significant opportunities for accelerated economic and social development of their countries as well as complex and difficult challenges which require their collaborative response.
Fourth, ASEAN and India are conscious of the fact that a new economic architecture is emerging in our region and new security arrangements are taking shape concurrently.
Fifth, ASEAN and India are partners in a fast changing and complex world. It is in the common interest of ASEAN and India to work together to ensure that the evolving regional economic and security architectures promote the goal of open regionalism and enhance the prospects for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia.
Sixth, in marking the 20th Anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership this year 2012, it is a symbolic opportunity for us to look back and take forward this Partnership to a higher plane, including to a strategic one.