Delhi Dialogue strengthen India-ASEAN bonds

New Delhi, Feb 21: A new dynamic was added to the expanding India-ASEAN partnership with the conclusion of the two-day Delhi Dialogue V here Feb 19-20.

It drew wide participation from India and 10 ASEAN member countries, including Secretary General of ASEAN, H.E. Le Luong Minh, three deputy foreign ministers and high-ranking official representatives from ASEAN countries, as also strategic experts from think-tanks.

The shared opinion of the ASEAN and Indian political leaders, policy-makers, and multiple stakeholders was that the Delhi Dialogue has demonstrably emerged as the premier ASEAN-centric forum in India. said a press release of the Indian Council of World (Affairs), which organised the conference.

“A distinct message that emanated from the Dialogue was that Southeast Asia starts from India’s Northeast, with Myanmar serving as a bridge between India and Southeast Asia. With the political transformation of Myanmar, enormous economic, commercial, and trade opportunities have opened up, which can lend a new dynamic to the Indian-ASEAN relationship,” ICWA director general Rajiv Bhatia said.

The event was co-hosted by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs, and supported by the SAEA Group Research, Singapore and the Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Jakarta.

In his inaugural address, Indian External Affairs Salman Khurshid had reaffirmed India’s commitment to ASEAN integration and to the further strengthening of India-ASEAN ties.

The message that echoed through the five sessions of the Dialogue was that connectivity – physical (road, rail, air and sea links); institutional (the civil society, media, and NGOs); people-to-people – should be accorded highest priority, along with digital and virtual connectivity, especially in the run-up to the creation of the ASEAN Community in 2015.

Connectivity is the key to harnessing the potential of ASEAN-India – home to 1.8 billion people with a combined GDP of US$ 3.8 trillion. Some of the notable recommendations, made at the Dialogue, were: the setting up of an ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi; the signing of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment, and a review of the India-ASEAN Plan of Action 2010-2015, to incorporate strategic aspects.

A wide range of issues, covered by the Dialogue were: India-ASEAN security cooperation (maritime security, cyber security); non-traditional security challenges (food security, water management and pandemics); energy markets and new and renewable energy; cooperation between CLMV countries and Northeast India; expanding networks through connectivity (land, sea and air).

The rise of China, US pivot to Asia policy, and efforts by ASEAN to conclude a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea as a collective commitment to peace, also figured in the discussion on the regional security architecture. For addressing non-traditional vulnerabilities facing the common people of India and ASEAN, the need for innovative solutions and comprehensive strategies was underlined.

In the wake of Myanmar’s re-emergence, new vistas of cooperation will spring up. Hence, the need to expedite the Mekong-India Economic Corridor, linking Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar with India; India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, the development of Dawei port, and maritime linkages should be top of the agenda. This sub-region would become a vibrant commercial hub, accelerating the economic and social development of the people of the region.

From the corporate sector, Naina Lal Kidwai, President, FICCI and Director, Asia-Pacific, HSBC Ltd., Ms. Jyotsna Suri, Vice-President FICCI, and Mr. Sunand Sharma, Country President Alstom India and South Asia, dwelt on growing business opportunities and linkages between India and ASEAN.

–Indo-Asian News Servic

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IANS