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Posted on Nov 19, 04:57PM | IBNS
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said India gives highest priority to its relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"As we gather for our tenth summit in the country that hosted the first such Summit, let me reaffirm that India attaches the highest strategic priority to its relations with ASEAN, " Singh said in his opening remarks at 10th India-ASEAN Summit here.
"Two decades ago, India embarked upon a journey of openness and global economic integration. As we looked towards the East, ASEAN was the natural partner for our engagement in the Asia Pacific region. I am glad to say that this remains the case today," he said.
The Prime Minister said a future of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific required increased cooperation and integration in the region.
"ASEAN has shown the way in this regard. We support the objectives of an ASEAN Community by 2015, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity," he said.
Speaking on the India-ASEAN Agreement on Trade in Goods, Singh said: "Our trade was nearly 80 billion US dollars in the Indian financial year ending March 2012, exceeding our target of 70 billion US dollars.
"I would like to inform Your Excellencies that India is prepared to conclude the Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment Promotion before the Commemorative Summit in Delhi in December."
"This will be a strong signal of our deepening economic engagement, and will allow for rapid expansion in trade and investment flows in both directions," he said.
Singh said: "Connectivity with ASEAN in all its dimensions - physical, institutional and people-to-people - continues to be a strategic priority for India. Two major Commemorative events this year - the India-ASEAN Car Rally and the ASEAN sailing expedition of the Indian Naval Ship Sudarshini - highlight the importance and the potential for connecting India and ASEAN by sea, surface and air links."
He said India and ASEAN have signed a 'unique' Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 'Strengthening Tourism Cooperation'.
"Continuing liberalization of our visa regime for ASEAN countries is also inspired by the same desire to connect our people and expand mutually beneficial economic opportunities.
"I am especially pleased that, this year, delegates of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly have exchanged visits for the first time with an Indian Parliamentary delegation," Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the launch of an ASEAN-India Newsletter on Agriculture and Forestry was a very important initiative.
"I am also encouraged by the level of ASEAN participation in the Agri Expo. We look forward to a successful India-ASEAN Business Fair in Delhi in December. I attach special importance to our ongoing cooperative programmes in the knowledge and skills sector," he said.
"We are making tangible progress on the Plan of Action for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity for 2010-15," Singh said.
He said India and ASEAN should not only work for shared prosperity and closer links between people but also to promote peace, security and stability in the region.
"We should therefore enhance our cooperation to address shared challenges. I am happy to note our growing engagement in areas such as defence, maritime security and counter-terrorism.
" We attach great importance to our consultation and cooperation in the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ADMM+ forums," Singh said.
"I am confident that, given our cultural affinity, physical proximity, shared values, convergent worldviews and similarities in our approaches to the region, our relationship will increasingly become more comprehensive and strategic in nature."
Speaking on Cambodia, he said: "I would like to express my deep appreciation for the constructive and supportive role that Cambodia has played for the last three years as the Coordinator for India.
"I welcome Brunei, the current Coordinator for India, and assure them of our full support in taking our partnership to new heights."
Singh on Sunday arrived at Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, for the 10th India-ASEAN Summit and the 7th East Asian Summit.