Boosting its Look East policy, India and 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN ) decided to elevate their ties into a strategic partnership and concluded their tortuous negotiations on free trade agreements in investment and services.
This year marks 20 years of dialogue partnership and 10 years of annual summits between India and ASEAN , which together account for 1.8 billion people representing one-fourth of humanity with a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion.
Addressing the India-ASEAN commemorative summit, PM Manmohan Singh said a stable prosperous Indo-Pacific region was crucial for our own progress.
“Naturally, this partnership is important because our histories are intertwined. Equally, I feel, our future is inter-linked... there is, therefore, mutual benefit in these aspects of our engagement,” Singh said.
“We see our partnership with Asean not merely as a reaffirmation of ties with neighbouring countries or as an instrument of economic development, but also as an integral part of our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Asia and its surrounding Indian Ocean and Pacific regions,” he said.
“The India-Asean engagement began with a strong economic emphasis, but it has also become increasingly strategic in its content. Our political dialogue has grown, our consultations in regional forums have intensified, and our defence and counter-terrorism cooperation have expanded,” Singh noted.
Vietnam seeks India support
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged India to back the code of conduct being negotiated between ASEAN and China. Though many Asean countries have disputes with an assertive Beijing in South China sea, he was the only leader to take China’s name.