Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday embarked on a four-day visit to Indonesia and Singapore with an aim of bolstering partnership with East Asia at a time when the US and Europe are going through economic crisis.
Singh will attend the India-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit in Bali in Indonesia with a focus on enhancing trade and investment, connectivity and capacity-building besides discussing security issues.
On the sidelines of these Summits, he will have bilateral meetings with US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
In the second leg of the two-nation tour, Singh will travel to Singapore on a bilateral visit.
"Partnership with ASEAN is an essential component of our 'Look East' policy," the Prime Minister said in his departure statement in New Delhi on Thursday.
He noted that the level of India's engagement with the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) as a group and with individual ASEAN member states has gone up qualitatively in the last few years.
"This is reflected in the areas of trade and investment, capacity-building, connectivity, people-to-people and institutional linkages," Singh said.
He said an ambitious India-ASEAN Plan of Action for 2010-2015 has been agreed upon and "I will review the implementation of the Plan of Action with the ASEAN leaders."
Next year, India will host the India-ASEAN Summit for the first time to commemorate 20 years of dialogue partnership with ASEAN, Singh pointed out. "I will have the opportunity to share our ideas for the Commemorative Summit with ASEAN leaders in Bali."
About the East Asia Summit, Singh said it was "the principal forum to devise an open and inclusive architecture of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region."
This year's Summit will see the formal entry into the East Asia Summit process of the United States and Russia, he noted.
"As a founding member, India is part of several initiatives taken by the East Asia Summit to create an economic community in the region such as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA)," he said.
He pointed out that increasingly, political and security issues are becoming part of the East Asia Summit agenda.
"There are concerns among the countries of the region over issues relating to disaster management, maritime security, terrorism and other non-traditional threats to security," he said, adding, "I look forward to an open, frank and productive discussion on all these issues."
Referring to his first bilateral visit to Singapore on November 19, Singh said he attaches "great importance" to it and looked forward to holding wide-ranging discussions with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on deepening our economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people relations.
"Singapore is a key partner for us in the region. India’s 'Look East' policy started with our engagement with Singapore, and that country has been among the strongest advocates of greater cooperation between South East Asia and India," he said.
Singapore is India's largest trading partner in ASEAN, and the second largest investor in India and was the first country with which India signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2005. "Currently, we are in the process of a second review of this Agreement to make it work better for both of us," he said.
Singh said he also looked forward to unveiling a Marker and Bust of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Singapore.