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The 7th India-ASEAN Summit

Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh's Statement at the 7th India-ASEAN Summit:-

I thank the Prime Minister of Thailand His Excellency Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva for hosting the 7th India-ASEAN Summit in this beautiful city of Hua Hin. We are grateful to the Government and people of Thailand for the excellent arrangements that have been made, and for their warm hospitality.

I thank Indonesia for serving as the Coordinator for India and welcome Cambodia as the next Coordinator, and assure them of our full support.

I also take this opportunity to extend our deepest condolences over the tragic loss of life and destruction during the recent natural calamities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.

The ASEAN region is synonymous with dynamic economic growth. The adoption of the ASEAN Charter in December 2008 is a manifestation of the growing profile of ASEAN in world affairs. We warmly welcome this important development.

India¡¦s engagement with the ASEAN is at the heart of our ¡¥Look East¡¦ Policy. We are convinced that India¡¦s future and our economic interests are best served by greater integration with our Asian partners.

The conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade-in-Goods Agreement in August 2009 is a major first step in our objective of creating an India-ASEAN Regional Trade and Investment Area. The journey was not easy, but we have succeeded in overcoming several difficulties, and this gives us hope for the future.

India-ASEAN trade has grown at a healthy rate despite the recent global economic downturn. The volume of trade stood at US$ 48 billion in 2008. Despite the economic downturn, I am confident that we can achieve our bilateral trade target of US$ 50 billion by 2010. With the conclusion of the Trade-in-Goods Agreement, we should aim for an even higher target for our trade turnover.

We attach high importance to the early conclusion of negotiations on the Trade-in-Services and Investment Agreement, and we should direct our officials accordingly.

I am happy to note that there has been good progress on all other initiatives that have been taken by us, including those discussed at the last Summit in Singapore in 2007. These include the creation of an India-ASEAN Science and Technology Fund, the India-ASEAN Health Care Initiative, cooperation in traditional medicines, the India-ASEAN Network on Climate Change and the establishment of a Green Fund. Several programmes to promote people-to-people contacts are also being implemented. We look forward to working closely with the ASEAN and other countries of the East Asia Summit process to establish the Nalanda University as an international institution of excellence in education with a continental focus.

In keeping with the theme of the ASEAN Summit of ¡§Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples¡¨, I would propose the following initiatives to further strengthen the links between us:-

„« Establishment of an India-ASEAN Round Table comprising think tanks, policy makers, scholars, media and business representatives to bridge the knowledge gap. The Round Table would provide policy inputs to the governments of India and the ASEAN countries on future areas of cooperation.

„« Intensification of negotiations on an open skies policy, further simplification of the visa regime to encourage business and tourist travel, a much larger number of youth exchange programmes, and commencement of exchanges of Parliamentarians between India and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

„« Holding an ASEAN Trade and Industrial Exhibition in India in October 2010 or January 2011.

„« Enhanced cooperation in the agriculture sector with a view to meeting the challenges of food security. The forthcoming meeting of our Agriculture Ministries in 2010 in India should identify specific areas of cooperation, including in extension services.

„« Cooperation in the application of space technologies. We would be ready to share satellite data for management of natural disasters, launch small satellites and scientific instruments and payloads for experiments in remote sensing and communication for space agencies and academic institutions in ASEAN countries.

India has been privileged to be a partner in the ¡§Initiative for ASEAN Integration¡¨ Programme. We have been involved in projects for skills upgradation such as Entrepreneurship Development Centres and Centres for English Language Learning in Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic and Vietnam. We would be happy to increase the number of such Centres.

In addition, India would be happy to participate in projects under the ASEAN¡¦s Work Plan for 2009-2015 in areas such as education, energy, agriculture and forestry, and small and medium enterprises.

The ASEAN also has plans to develop an ASEAN ICT Master Plan for the period 2010-2015. India would be happy to offer its services for the realisation of this Plan, and to assist in the creation of an e-network in ASEAN which could ultimately be linked up with select Indian institutions in diverse areas.

To support all these initiatives, we are ready to allocate upto 50 million US dollars during the period of the ASEAN Work Plan under the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund and the ASEAN Development Fund.

In 2012, we will be commemorating the 10th anniversary of India¡¦s participation as a summit level partner of ASEAN, and 20 years as a sectoral dialogue partner. These are significant milestones, and deserve careful preparation.

We could jointly consider organising a commemorative ship expedition in 2011-12 on the sea routes developed during the 10th to 12th centuries linking India with South East Asia and East Asia. The sea route could cover modern and ancient ports in ASEAN countries, and other East Asian countries.

India would be privileged to host the India-ASEAN Summit meeting in 2012 in India. To ensure a substantive outcome, I would further propose that we set up a Joint Task Force to prepare a Vision Statement for India-ASEAN relations upto the year 2020.

This should take into account the growing strengths of both the ASEAN countries and India and how we can jointly harness our complementarities and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Asia.

Given the steadily expanding range of our cooperation it is important that we put in place effective monitoring and follow-up mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of the decisions that we take.

Our engagement with the ASEAN countries is a key element of India¡¦s vision of an Asian economic community that is based on an open and inclusive architecture. India wishes to partner ASEAN in realizing this vision on the basis of mutual benefit, mutual prosperity and mutual respect.


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