Giving a renewed thrust to India's Look East policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pushed for greater integration with the 10-nation Asean through economic partnerships, greater physical connectivity and cooperation in a range of other fields such as science and technology and space.
Addressing the 9th India-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit, Manmohan Singh said India had forwarded a number of "cooperative projects" as part of the 82-point Asean-India Plan of Action for 2010-2015 and the $50 million Asean-India Cooperation. "We look forward to an early response from the Asean side," he said.
"Given the global economic downturn, there is today an even greater urgency to our cooperation," he said.
Pointing out that the India-Asean Free Trade Agreement for Trade in Goods had already come into effect, he said trade with the grouping had increased by 30% in 2010-2011 to cross the $50 billion mark. "With such a rate of growth we should be able to achieve our target of $70 billion by 2012."
He sought support for early conclusion of a "commercially meaningful services and investment agreement" to create a "positive atmosphere for the implementation of the India-Asean Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement".
Manmohan Singh informed the gathering that India's Department of Space had revised its proposal for a five year project for establishing a tracking and reception station and data processing facility for the Asean countries and training of Asean personnel.
"We have already offered to assist in the master plan on Asean ICT Connectivity and in particular on the establishment of an e-network in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries for tele-medicine and tele-education."
According to Manmohan Singh, greater physical connectivity between India and Asean remains India's strategic objective. "There are several proposals under consideration with regard to land and sea connectivity. These include the India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway, its extension to Laos and Cambodia and the development of a new highway also linking Vietnam."
There is also a study on a Mekong-India Economic Corridor, which proposes the linking of corridors in the peninsular, and possibly the north east regions of India with the East Asian region.
"I would suggest that all these different proposals should be studied in an integrated manner by our officials so that we take considered decisions to optimise our resources and efforts."
India, he added, also welcomed cooperation on security issues. Discussions with Asean and Asean led forums have focused on maritime security, counter-terrorism, training, exercises and disaster management.
Visa on arrival facility for six Asean countries - Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines -- is now in place.
Student and media exchanges were part of the growing relationship between India and the grouping.
India, which has been holding annual summits with Asean since 2002, is hosting a special Asean-India Commemorative Summit in India.
"This will be a historic occasion for us," the prime minister said, proposing Dec 20-21, 2012 as the dates for the summit.
In the run-up, it will holding the fourth round of the Delhi Dialogue in February 2012 and meetings of the Asean-India Ministers for New and Renewable Energy and Agriculture as well as an India-Asean Business Fair, he said.
An Asean-India Car Rally is part of it too, as well as a sailing expedition. "We also propose to send a Sail Training Ship Sudarshini on an expedition to Asean countries along the route of the monsoon trade winds," the prime minister said.