Following is the text
of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s opening statement at Plenary
Session of Indian-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi today:
‘It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome you and your
delegations to India. This is the first time that leaders from all ten
ASEAN countries are with us here in Delhi. It is a historic moment for
us and our region. We are commemorating not only twenty years of
Dialogue Partnership and ten years of annual summits between India and
ASEAN; we are also celebrating something more enduring and precious.
India and South-east Asia have centuries-old links. People, ideas,
trade, art and religions have long criss-crossed this region. A timeless
thread of civilization runs through all our countries. While each one of
us has a unique and rich heritage, there are abiding linkages of culture
and custom, of art and religion and of civilization, all of which create
a sense of unity in the diversity and pluralism in our region. In
addition, given that together we constitute a community of 1.8 billion
people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of 3.8
trillion U.S. dollars, it is only natural that India should attach the
highest priority to its relationship with ASEAN.
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.
The breadth and intensity of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia is
unmatched by any of our other regional relationships. We have
institutionalized annual summits; many of our sectoral dialogues have
been elevated into ministerial consultations; and nearly 25 mechanisms
for dialogue and cooperation between us cover virtually every field of
This engagement has flourished particularly in the area of trade.
India-ASEAN trade has grown over ten times in the ten years since we
launched the annual summits. Following the implementation of our FTA in
Goods, trade grew by 41% in Indian fiscal year of 2011-12. Two-way flows
in investments have also grown rapidly to reach 43 billion U.S. dollars
over the past decade. As ASEAN investments into India have multiplied,
ASEAN countries too have emerged as major destinations for Indian
companies. From energy resources to farm products, from materials to
machinery, and from electronics to information technology, Indian and
ASEAN companies are forging new partnerships of trade and investment.
It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to see that our Commemorative
Summit today coincides with the conclusion of negotiations for the FTA
in Services and Investments. This represents a valuable milestone in our
relationship. I am confident it will boost our economic ties in much the
same way the FTA in Goods has done.
Excellencies, 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. Naturally, this partnership is important because our histories
are intertwined. Equally, I feel, our future is inter-linked and a
stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region is crucial for our own
progress and prosperity. There is, therefore, mutual benefit in these
aspects of our engagement.
The path to regional peace and stability is greater coordination,
cooperation and integration among our economies. ASEAN has shown the way
for the entire region, building a regional mechanism of cooperation and
consensus that has become a great force for peace and prosperity. It has
also emerged as the principal architect and driver of economic and
security structures and institutions that are emerging in the region.
ASEAN centrality and leadership are essential elements for the success
of these forums and India fully supports ASEAN as the lynchpin of these
efforts. We also support the objective of an ASEAN Community by 2015 and
will continue to be an active participant in the Initiative for ASEAN
Integration and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity.
Excellencies, in so far as the broad lines of cooperation in coming
years are concerned, I feel we should intensify our political and
security consultations, including in regional forums such as the East
Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’
Meeting Plus. We should work together more purposefully for the
evolution of an open, balanced, inclusive and transparent regional
architecture. The growing role and responsibilities of ASEAN and India
in global affairs also call for increased consultation on a broader
range of international developments.
As maritime nations, India and ASEAN nations should intensify their
engagement for maritime security and safety, for freedom of navigation
and for peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with
international law. We should also foster regional cooperation to counter
piracy and respond to natural disasters.
Naturally, our ability to work together in regional and global contexts
will be stronger if we are able to deepen our own engagement and
cooperation. In this context, connectivity – physical, institutional,
people-to-people, digital and by sea and air – holds the key to closer
partnership between India and ASEAN. Tomorrow’s flagging down of the
India-ASEAN Car Rally will not only celebrate a remarkable journey by
brave men and women, but also symbolize how connectivity can link
people, stimulate trade and generate prosperity across the region. We
should, therefore, attach high priority to a quick implementation of the
India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its extension to Lao PDR
and Cambodia. We should also launch the second track that would run from
India through Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia to Vietnam.
Similarly, the Indian Naval Ship INS Sudarshini, which is on a six-month
expedition to nine ASEAN countries, not only draws attention to our
maritime links, but to the economic potential of sea-based connectivity.
These infrastructure projects demand enormous finances. We should think
of innovative ways of financing and executing these projects, which also
draw upon the expertise and resources of the private sector.
Improved connectivity will lead to expanded commerce. I am optimistic
that our trade will exceed 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015 and we
should aim for the milestone of 200 billion U.S. dollars ten years from
now. We should also build on commendable initiatives like the annual
India-ASEAN Business Fair and Conclave and energize our Business
Council. Linkages between small and medium enterprises, which are
central to our economies, should be promoted.
Many of us around this table share common challenges of energy and food
security, rapid urbanization, climate change, the empowerment of people
through education and skill development. We should use the opportunities
available to work together in addressing these. I would like to state
that, drawing on the experience of the India-ASEAN Plan of Action and
the recommendations of the India-ASEAN Eminent Persons’ Group, we will
expand our support for innovative mechanisms like the ASEAN-India Fund,
the ASEAN-India Green Fund and the ASEAN-India S&T Fund to take our
cooperation forward in diverse fields.
Excellencies, this is a time of great flux and transition, with several
unsettled questions and unresolved issues in our region. Our
responsibility to work for peace has increased and become more urgent.
Our shared values, convergent world views and similarities in approaches
to the region should help us make the India-ASEAN relationship more
comprehensive and elevate it to a Strategic Partnership for the next
decade and beyond.
With these words, I once again wish to thank you, Excellencies, for
joining me here in New Delhi. Your participation has already made this
Summit memorable. I very much look forward to hearing your valuable
views on the future of our relationship.
I would now like to invite my co-Chair, H.E. Mr. Hun Sen, the Prime
Minister of Cambodia, to share his views on the future of India-ASEAN