East Asia Summit East Asia Summit

Address by Secretary (East) at the Valedictory Session of the 2nd India­ CLMV Business Conclave in New Delhi(December 12, 2014)

December 12, 2014

Mr. Sanjay Kirloskar, Deputy Chairman, CII (Western Region),
Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII,
Mr. Ravi Capoor, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce,
Captains of Industry,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here today to deliver the Valedictory Address at the 2nd India-CLMV Business Conclave on the theme "ASEAN-India Economic Engagement: The Way Forward.” Thank you, Chandrajit Banerjee, for inviting me.

Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam, or CLMV for short, occupy a special place in India’s foreign policy dynamics, owing to the intrinsic links that we share, both historical as well as geographical, with the region. Even a casual traveller to the region is struck by the unexpected similarities and affinities in our art, architecture, music, dance forms, as well as cuisine.

India shares excellent bilateral relations with all four CLMV countries, and is actively involved through various multilateral fora in enhancing its engagement with them. The premier forum for our engagement with the larger South East Asian region is ASEAN and we see the CLMV countries as our gateway to ASEAN.

There are strong civilizational links that bind the people of India and ASEAN countries, predating the decision by our Governments to embark upon a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1992. The relationship has gone from strength to strength since and was elevated to a 'Strategic Partnership' in 2012. Relations with ASEAN are today one of the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy and the foundation of our "Look East Policy”.

We have 26 annual dialogue mechanisms with ASEAN and sectoral dialogues at Ministerial level in agriculture, commerce, environment, foreign affairs, renewable energy, telecommunications and tourism. Our Ministers and officials meet regularly to expand our collaborative agenda and our Heads of State and Government meet annually under the aegis of the India-ASEAN Summit to provide overall guidance and vision to the strategic partnership. We share with ASEAN the objective of a peaceful, prosperous and resurgent Asia which contributes to and promotes global peace and security.

Within the ASEAN, India is closely engaged with CLMV countries under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration - Narrowing Development Gaps. We are in the process of setting up Centers of Excellence in Software Development and Training in CLMV countries, as well as an Information Technology Resource-cum-Study Centre for ASEAN & CLMV countries at C-DAC, NOIDA, at a cost of US$ 8.7 million. Under the same programme, we would also provide assistance in IT curriculum development and IT teachers training to CLMV countries.

We have already set up Centres for English Language Training or CELTs at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, the National University of Laos, National University of Yangon in Myanmar and Da Nang, Vietnam. Following the announcement at the India-ASEAN Summit in Thailand in October 2009, we are in the process of establishing more CELTs in CLMV countries.

India will also be conducting a training programme at the National Institute for Securities Markets (NISM), Mumbai for professionals dealing with capital markets in CLMV countries. A project proposal is in the pipeline for conducting an intensive English language training programme for law enforcement officers from CLMV countries at the CELTs in their respective countries to increase their proficiency in English. As the ASEAN moves forward towards an ASEAN Community next year, India is playing a supportive role in the process.

As you are aware, trade between India and ASEAN has grown exponentially, expanding twenty-fold in the last 20 years to reach US$ 76.73 billion in 2013. We signed the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Goods in 2009 which has resulted in a significant increase in bilateral trade. There are any number of success stories of ASEAN investment in India and Indian investment in ASEAN countries.

Having said that, India’s trade and investment with CLMV countries is still well below potential and compares rather poorly with overall India-ASEAN trade and investment figures. The total trade with CLMV countries is just over US$ 10 billion. Within the CLMV countries, India’s trade with Vietnam stands at US$ 8 billion; with Myanmar at US$ 2.18 billion; with Cambodia at US$ 154 million and with Lao PDR at US$ 141 million. Clearly, trade with Cambodia and Lao PDR is unduly low and concerted efforts are required to remedy this.

There has been some progress in recent years. Bilateral trade with Cambodia registered 24% growth in the last financial year, while trade with Vietnam grew at 30%. With the signing of the India-ASEAN Agreements on Services & Investment earlier this year and their expected entry into force in July 2015, our economic engagement with CLMV countries can be expected to get an added boost.

Connectivity with South-East Asia is of strategic importance to India and we are working with ASEAN towards this shared goal. Work on the Trilateral Highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand is progressing well. We are also examining the possibility of extension of the Trilateral Highway to Lao PDR and Cambodia, with its eventual extension to Vietnam. (We would, I suppose, have to find a new name for it then!)

While the physical infrastructure for cross border connectivity is being put in place, India has also begun working on a trilateral Transit Transport Agreement (TTA) with Myanmar and Thailand. The proposed TTA will take care of the soft connectivity issues and will allow seamless transportation of goods and persons across borders.

At the recent 12th ASEAN-India Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in November 2014 which was attended by our Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, ASEAN leaders expressed appreciation for India's support of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. At the Summit, Hon'ble Prime Minister announced establishment of a special facility or SPV to facilitate project financing for connectivity projects to ensure their quick implementation.

The facility would begin with identification of Special Economic Zones, economic nodes and regional production chains along the Trilateral Highway and could also target resources from CLMV countries in agriculture, minerals, timber, oil and gas, etc., to the benefit of the development agenda across the region. It would have provision of US$ 1 billion over a 10 year period and seek to catalyse investment from the Indian private sector to the tune of US$ 10 billion over the same period.

Once the Trilateral Highway and Transit Transport Agreement materialize, and factoring in the East-West corridor under the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, we will have a well connected region for the first time in history. This would offer excellent opportunities for India, in particular our North-Eastern States, as well as the CLMV countries to take our partnership to a qualitatively higher level.

The Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) which includes India, the CLMV countries and Thailand is another promising platform for enhancing cooperation between our countries in tourism, culture, education, transport and communications. At the 6th MGC Ministerial Meeting held in New Delhi in 2012, some newer areas of cooperation have been identified including the establishment of an India-CLMV Quick Impact Projects (QIP) Fund of US$ 1 million annually, SME cooperation, conservation of Rice GermPlasm, setting up a Working Group on Health for information-sharing and cooperation in Pandemic Management, as well as setting up of a Common Archival Resource Centre (CARC) at the Nalanda University.

Moreover, the Visa on Arrival facility has been made available to all CLMV countries with a view to facilitating further deepening and widening of our multi-faceted relationship, and particularly encouraging travel and exchanges at the people-to-people level. CLMV countries are also significant beneficiaries of scholarships that we offer under ITEC.

To sum up, it goes without saying that we need to work proactively with all stakeholders to ensure that India’s economic engagement with CLMV countries gets into a higher growth trajectory and becomes at par with our engagement with other ASEAN countries, even surpassing it in future. It is in this context that the CLMV Business Conclave organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is a very timely and forward looking initiative in the right direction.

The 1st edition of the Business Conclave organized last year was very well received. I am glad that CII and the Department of Commerce have institutionalized this very extremely useful forum on an annual basis bringing together business, industry, Governments and other stakeholders from India and CLMV countries do some brainstorming to get this mutually beneficial agenda off the ground at full throttle. This Conclave is an excellent example of "public-private partnership of thought” towards strengthening an important pillar of our ever-growing engagement with the CLMV countries.

I am most encouraged by the extensive and high-level participation that I have seen from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam in the event. May I congratulate all the participants present here today for the value and commitment that they have brought to this event. Your diverse experience and wide knowledge base has no doubt contributed to a substantive outcome of the Conclave, and will help to further carry forward our Prime Minister's new mantra of not just "Looking East” but also "Acting East.”

Thank you.
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