Began Seri Begawan (Brunei), Oct 9: India will soon have a separate mission dedicated to handle all its ASEAN-related activities and mechanisms.
It also plans to appoint a separate ambassador for the region, that is central to its Look East policy of expanding its relationship and presence in the southeast Asian region.
The new mission would be set up in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where the ASEAN Secretariat is based.
The Eminent Persons Group (EPG) last year recommended a dedicated ASEAN mission and the government has accepted this, officals said.
Officials said the new mission would handle all ASEAN affairs.
India’s relationship with the ASEAN has expanded beyond imagination just a few years ago to areas ranging from economy, security and defence cooperation to energy and technology.
Twenty seven different mechanisms are at work now, spanning diverse fields. The mechanisms include the ASEAN-India Summit and seven meetings at the level of ministers for external affairs, trade, agriculture, tourism, telecommunications, environment and new and renewable energy.
“We expect more dialogue mechanisms to open up in the coming month,” said a top official of the external affairs ministry accompanying Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a visit here to attened the India-ASEAN summit and the East Asia Summit.
“To take this relationship to the next step, we will set up a new mission for ASEAN and a separate ambassador for the region,” the official added.
The announcement is expected to be made by the prime minister during this trip.
In June this year, India set up the ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi. It is now working to set up an ASEAN-India Centre for trade and investment.
ASEAN-India trade today stands at $76 billion.
“We have a target of $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2022,” said an official.
India and ASEAN are expected to ink a free trade greement (FTA) by this year-end. An agreement on goods is already in place.
(Saroj Mohanty can be contacted at email@example.com)