Bangkok: Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari has said that India places ASEAN at the core of the ‘Act East Policy’ and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century.
“There is a special emphasis on India-ASEAN cooperation in our domestic agenda on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities and Make in India programmes,” said Vice President Ansari in his address at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok- ‘India, Thailand and ASEAN: Contours of a Rejuvenated Relationship’. “Connectivity projects, cooperation in Science and Technology development and people-to-people exchanges are to be the springboard for regional integration and co-prosperity,” he added.
Vice President Ansari said the Delhi Dialogue, the eighth edition of which will be held later this month; the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series and the ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi are important components of our agenda to enhance mutual understanding.”The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 was adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete initiatives and areas of cooperation along the three ASEAN pillars – political-security, economic and socio-cultural. We have opened a separate Mission to ASEAN and EAS in Jakarta to further strengthen our engagement,” he added.
Vice President Ansari pointed out that India and ASEAN today have 30 annual dialogue mechanisms including a Summit at Prime Ministerial level and seven sectoral dialogues at ministerial level. “We have established three funds to support our vast agenda with the ASEAN- the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Fund, and the ASEAN-India Green Fund. Numerous projects are being implemented under these funds – ranging from establishing of a space station to fighting malaria to promoting agricultural research,” Vice President Ansari said. “The breadth and intensity of India’s engagement with South East Asia is unmatched by any of our other regional relationships. We have an intensive engagement across Governments as well as between experts, think tanks, private sectors, academia, diplomats, farmers, students and media,” he added.
Vice President Ansari further said this trident of commerce, culture and connectivity defines the future focus areas of cooperation between ASEAN member states and India. Asserting that his visit underscores the importance India attaches to Thailand as part of our increasing engagement with the region, he said despite the large size and rapid growth of our economies, the trade and investment between India and Thailand remains modest. “There is a need to synergize our efforts in the areas of economy and business to enhance and diversify our trade. We need to encourage our private sectors to make investments in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors in the each others’ country and for this the two governments are willing to provide a predictable and comprehensive legal and taxation frame-work,” he said.
Vice President Ansari further said there is tremendous potential for enhancing our bilateral defence ties. ” Thailand has played host to ships of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard on several occasions in recent years. We hope to continue this cooperation through technical, human resource development, capacity building and contributing to the development of Thai capacities, both physical and human,” he added.
The Vice President said India has pursued a ‘Look East’ policy since 1991. “This emanated from a perception that our economic progress and well being is intimately linked to the growth and prosperity of the entire Asian continent, especially of our friends across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea,” said Vice President Ansari. “ASEAN was thus a natural partner for our engagement in the Asia Pacific region. It is a partnership based both on a shared heritage and a pragmatic appraisal of economic growth and prosperity; peace and stability,” he added.
Vice President Ansari further said since the commencement of the dialogue relationship with ASEAN in 1992, the potential of this partnership has grown commensurate to the increase in our collective capacities, our growing economic integration and the ongoing evolution of the political and security architecture in South and East Asia. “The up-gradation of the ASEAN-India relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 was a natural progression in this relationship,” he added.