Ahead of the ASEAN summit in Cebu, Philippines next week, Singapore on Sunday outlined a "central strategic and economic role" for India in the construction of a vibrant new East Asia and the emerging regional architecture.
"India has a natural and central place in the emerging East Asian order and has key roles to play to shape the emerging regional architecture," Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar said at the 5th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"I am convinced that India will be an essential part of the emerging East Asian pattern and that India's future will be increasingly bound up with that of East Asia," Jayakumar, of Indian origin who is the chief guest at the PBD that celebrates India's engagement with its vast and talented diaspora, added.
"India's participation will not just be economic; rather economic growth will inevitably give India a central strategic role," he stressed.
Manmohan Singh will be visiting the Cebu island in the Philippines to attend the India-ASEAN and East Asia summits, scheduled to be held on Jan 14-15 - a visit that is set to give a further impetus to India's Look East policy and place it at the heart of the emerging East Asian architecture.
Manmohan Singh had enunciated a vision of an emerging Asian Economic Community and a pan-Asian Free Trade Agreement (FTA) at the first East Asia Summit held in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005.
Conjuring up a robust vision of India's increasing centrality to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the evolving East Asia Community, Jayakumar emphasised that as India improved its relations with the US, China and Japan - three key players in the region - New Delhi will become "integral to the East Asian equation" in the days to come.
"Increasingly, Sino-India, India-Japan and US-India relations will become integral to the East Asian equation," he said.
"These relationships play an important role in maintaining East Asia's stability and continued economic growth," he stressed.
Although India is set "to lead the way and play a key role" in the region as it negotiates an FTA with the ASEAN, Jayakumar added on a cautious note that India must stay the course of economic reforms and liberalisation it started in 1991 - a period that ushered in a new chapter in India-ASEAN mechanism - for New Delhi's continuing accelerated engagement with East Asia.
"It is in the interests of both India and East Asia that India succeeds in playing these key roles, by staying the course of reforms to sustain its economic growth, by accelerating its external links with the rest of Asia and by nurturing its relationship with key players in the region," he said.
Jayakumar also lauded the Indian diaspora for its instrumental role in linking India with an economically vibrant East Asia and predicted a bigger role for them in pushing this process in the future.
"I believe that the Indian diaspora is a key resource which can play a catalytic role to link India more closely to the rest of East Asia," he said
"They are not merely cultural ambassadors for India abroad; they are also ambassadors of the 'abroad' to India and can help interpret and explain international conditions to India and so contribute to its transformation," he stressed.
Singapore had played a pivotal role in India's increasing engagement with East Asia and pushed hard to make India a full ASEAN dialogue partner.
Singapore, home to a large Indian diaspora and some 2,000 Indian companies, also played a key role in India's participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS).
A declaration on energy security with emphasis on clean energy-efficient technologies is expected at the end of the EAS - a forum comprising 10 ASEAN countries, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.