What's New Towards Realization of the Asean Connectivity plus: Moving Forward With Asean-India Connectivity

Towards Realization of the Asean Connectivity plus: Moving Forward With Asean-India Connectivity

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Anil Wadhwa
Symposium: “Towards Realization of the Asean Connectivity plus: Moving Forward With Asean-India Connectivity”
27 November 2013, (Hotel Dusit Thani, Bangkok)

Your Excellency Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN,
….Vice Minister of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand,
Distinguished participants, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

 1.               I am delighted to be here today at the Symposium on “Towards Realization of the ASEAN Connectivity plus: Moving Forward with ASEAN-India Connectivity” jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, the Japanese Mission to ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat. I thank the organizers for selecting a very timely theme for this important seminar.

2.             India’s relations with the ASEAN member countries have been a two-way civilizational connect and a history of trade, commerce, and educational exchanges. In modern times, we are not only able to revive our historical links but also advance it to diverse areas for mutual benefit of our people.  India has built solid partnerships in the region, bilaterally and with ASEAN as a whole. Today, India attaches high priority to its relationship with ASEAN. 

3.             Two decades ago, India embarked upon a journey of openness and global economic integration. As we looked towards the East, ASEAN was the natural partner for our engagement in the Asia Pacific region. Last year, we celebrated 20 years of this enhanced partnership in New Delhi with a special commemorative summit. The elevation of our partnership to a strategic level came in the wake of significant progress during past years in India-ASEAN Plan of Action for 2010-2015 under all the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic integration and socio-cultural exchanges. The breadth and intensity of our engagement with ASEAN is unparalleled by any of our other regional relationships. We have institutionalized annual summits; many of our sectoral dialogues have been elevated into ministerial consultations; and about 25 mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation between India and ASEAN cover virtually every field of human endeavor.

4.             Improving connectivity, promoting cooperation among our institutions and deepening linkages between our people has been the unique defining feature of our partnership. Economic and commercial engagement between India and ASEAN has seen very impressive trade growth and two-way flows in investment. Conclusion of the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements, which is to be signed by end of this year, will help in achieving our trade target of US $ 100 billion by 2015.Connectivity with ASEAN in all its dimensions – physical, institutional and people-to-people – continues to be a strategic priority for India. Last year, the India-ASEAN Car Rally – which travelled 8000 kmsin 9 countries in 22 days including its longest distance in Thailand - celebrated a remarkable journey by brave men and women, but also symbolized how connectivity can link people, stimulate trade and generate prosperity across the region. Similarly, the Indian Naval Ship INS Sudarshini, which was on a six-month expedition with13 ports of call in nine ASEAN countries, drew attention not only to our maritime links, but also to the economic potential of sea-based connectivity.

5.             Speedy implementation of projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway remains a high priority for India. We look forward to work closely with Thailand and Myanmar to achieve fast and seamless transit along the Trilateral highway. There is a need to pursue further on route alignments for extending this Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. The Mekong-India Economic Corridor, which will connect the industrial and freight corridors in India with the production networks in the Mekong region through the Chennai-Dawei sea link and the land connectivity to India’s Northeast, will have a beneficial effect on all our economies. These infrastructure projects demand enormous finances. We should think of innovative ways of financing and executing these projects, which draw upon the expertise and resources of the private sector.

6.             I am certain that the regularmeetings of the India-ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee would be useful in facilitating coordination and policy decisions on connectivity issues. The decision to establish a Working Group on Soft Infrastructure along our corridors of connectivity addresses a key factor in the success of the connectivity projects. We need to begin discussions on an ASEAN-India Transit Transport Agreement with a view to completing it by 2015. Indiaalso looks forward to the proposed Maritime Transport Working Group meeting. The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia has done admirable work in suggesting the utility of a Mekong India Economic Corridor and we need to look at providing incentives, including setting up of SEZs to attract private sectors to invest in these connectivity corridors.In this digital age, we need to think of virtual networks as a way forward for connecting the region and strengthen ASEAN-India Connectivity in ICT.

7.             Capacity building, development, economic growth and peace & stability have been the characteristics of the ASEAN-India partnership.Initiatives like establishment of the ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi and proposed separate Indian Mission to the ASEAN in Jakarta with a resident Ambassador, revival of the ASEAN-India Business Council and proposed ASEAN-India Trade and Investment Centre will explore the rich potential of our cooperation in diverse areas.

8.             India is happy to note the progress amongst the ASEAN countries in integrative processes towards the ASEAN Community by 2015. We would like to emphasize that as ASEAN countries integrate amongst themselves, the process of integration with India should also move apace.

9.             We see Thailand as a springboard for India’s engagement with South East and East Asia and it remains a vital link in our partnership with ASEAN. Our shared values, convergent world views and similarities in approaches to the region should help us further strengthen the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for the next decade and beyond.

10.          I wish all the success to the deliberations of today’s symposium. I am confident that your discussions will be a step forward in achieving our common objective as stated in the Vision Statement of the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi, which imposes on us the responsibility to work diligently and innovatively to fulfill the heightened expectations from this engagement.