Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the other Heads of State, at the 8th ASEAN-India Summit, in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 30, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the other Heads of State, at the 8th ASEAN-India Summit, in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 30, 2010.

PM says Asia-Pacific integration should be built around ASEAN

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, October 30, 2010

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India believed that ASEAN was the core around which the progress of economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region should be built.

In this context, he said India's economy had been growing rapidly for the past few years and it hoped to achieve a growth rate of 8.5 per cent this year.

"In the coming years, we hope to sustain a growth rate of 9-10% per year which will offer many opportunities for trade and investment. Our government has undertaken programmes for a massive transformation of rural India that is creating a huge and booming rural market for goods and services," Dr Singh told the 8th India-ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

He hoped that all formalities for implementing the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement by all ASEAN States are completed at an early date.

"The conclusion of a Services and Investment Agreement will be an important step in our goal of comprehensive economic cooperation," he said.

Dr Singh said that, for the past five years, the achievement of the India-ASEAN partnership had been to initiate cooperation in a diverse range of sectors covering political and security ties, economic cooperation and the promotion of socio-cultural links.

He commended the officials of both sides for developing a Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity for the years 2010-2015.

"It is an ambitious road map and the 82 Action Points reflect the vast potential and desire to develop a multi-faceted India-ASEAN relationship," he said.

The Prime Minister said the experience of implementation showed that hard work was needed at all levels to accelerate the pace of engagement as outlined in the Plan of Action.

"I recall that the theme of the ASEAN Summit this year is 'Vision to Action'. This theme is equally appropriate for our own partnership," he said.

Dr Singh invited ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan to visit India to review the mechanisms and procedures in place so that the pace of implementing agreed projects could be speeded up.

He urged the two sides to make further efforts to identify concrete projects for cooperation under the India-ASEAN Science & Technology Fund, India-ASEAN Green Fund and the $ 50 million India-ASEAN Fund announced last year.

He noted that, in recent years, there had been a substantial increase in people to people exchanges as a result of better air connectivity between India and ASEAN. More than 3 million Indian tourists visit ASEAN every year and about 380 flights connect Indian and ASEAN cities every week. This is well below the potential, he said.

Dr Singh invited many more tourists from the ASEAN countries to visit India to see the splendour of its rich cultural heritage.

"I am happy that the text of the ASEAN-India MoU for cooperation in Tourism has been finalized. I am also pleased to note that ASEAN will soon establish an ASEAN Promotional Chapter for tourism in Mumbai," he said.

As a concrete measure, he announced that India would extend its visa on arrival facility to nationals of Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos with effect from January 1, 2011.

He said India had always accorded high priority to the countries covered by the "Initiative for ASEAN integration". He said India hoped to upgrade the level of youth exchanges as well as establish Vocational Training Centres in each of these countries.

Stressing that connectivity is another important area of cooperation, he announced that India would, as a further measure to support the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity, offer 100 IT scholarships to each of the 10 ASEAN countries over the next 5 years.

In the area of Science & Technology, he said it should be another focus area of cooperation. He said India was ready to set up a Centre for Tracking and Data Reception and an Imaging facility for the ASEAN countries. This Centre would utilize data provided by Indian remote sensing satellites and harness it for multiple developmental applications. He proposed a meeting of the heads of the space agencies of ASEAN countries and India to work out the exact details of cooperation.

The Prime Minister said India-ASEAN cooperation in political and security matters was progressing well, including through expanded bilateral exchanges.

"These are important areas of our cooperation not only because of the common threats that we face but also because such cooperation helps to built mutual trust and understanding," he said.

Dr Singh said India looked forward to hosting the commemorative India-ASEAN Summit in India in the year 2012.

"This will be a land mark event and we must begin preparations early. The Eminent Persons Group should be set up quickly so that it can formulate a vision statement towards a long term strategic partnership between ASEAN and India that could be the theme of the Summit," he added.

Dr Singh had reached Hanoi on Thursday evening on the last leg of a week-long three-nation tour that had earlier taken him to Japan and Malaysia. He is due to leave for home from Hanoi later today.