New Delhi, Oct 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to Southeast Asia was a “success”, and signified that India is part of the larger economic integration of Southeast Asia, two senior ministers of his cabinet said Saturday.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the prime minister’s visit to Brunei and Indonesia was “extremely successful” and there was a complete “convergence” of interests and perceptions on a host of bilateral and multilateral issues such counter-terrorism, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and food security.
The prime minister, who returned here Saturday, took part in the India-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Brunei. He also held two structured meetings with his Japanese and Australian counterparts Shinzo Abe and Tony Abbott during which he reviewed bilateral ties and discussed isssues pertaining to Asia-Pacific, such as creating an strong and effective security architecture.
This, Khurshid said, signified India’s “growing footprint” in the Asia-Pacific region following the two-decade-old “Look East” policy.
On the prime minister’s meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the official level talks, Khurshid said both sides decided that the India-Indonesia Joint Commission should meet annually, instead of bi-annually, in view of the “rapidly changing world”.
He said the Commission would meet in February, 2014, perhaps in Indonesia.
Khurshid said Indonesia is looking forward to contributing to world governance and “we look forward to collaboration” in this arena.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma the prime minister’s visit and talks with Asian leaders showed that India has become a part of the “larger economic integration” of Southeast Asia.
He said from the prime minister’s talks with President Yudhoyono and his own interactions, it became clear that both sides wanted to raise two-way trade and investment significantly.
He said bilateral trade has crossed 200 billion and Indian investment has crossed 70 billion. Investment of another 30 billion is in the pipeline.
The two countries Friday agreed to explore a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to increase trade and investment.
Sharma said both sides had identified the areas of cooperation such as energy, including oil and gas and mining, agriculture and agri-processing, health, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, including advanced manufacturing and technology.
There would also be cooperation in services, financials, IT, railways, civil aviation and transportation.
The ASEAN is going to complete the integration process by 2015 to forge a Economic Community. India is looking at Indonesia, the largest economy in ASEAN, as an investment destination and a production base.
Indonesia young demographics also offer a good market for Indian goods and services. Manmohan Singh has invited Indonesian companies to invest in India’s infrastructure sector.
Sharma said two working groups would look into increasing two-way trade and investment.
Another important area is film production. Both India and Indonesia would explore joint production, he said. Indonesians would also be trained at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune and the Institute of Animation in Hyderabad.
He said the ASEAN side has assured that the agreement on services and investment would be signed on the sidelines of the WTO ministerial conference in Bali in December after the member countries completed certain technicalities.
Sharma said India was looking forward to a “balanced outcome” at the WTO meeting on contentious issues like trade facilitation, public procurement and customs.
He said a balance was needed between what he called the “binding and non-binding commitments” involved in the three areas, and the interests of the developing and developed countries.
“We wiil have a resolution of all issues” concerning global trade, said Sharma.