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Speeches & Statements

Keynote address by Secretary(East) in the Academic Session of Delhi Dialogue VII; 12 March 2015

March 12, 2015

Brig. Rumel Dahiya
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,


I feel privileged to be here with you at the inaugural of the Academic Session of the seventh edition of the Delhi Dialogue. We had a good start to this year’s event yesterday with the first-ever full fledged Business Session in the morning attended by industry captains and key business delegates from ASEAN countries and India. The Business Session was followed by a candid sharing of views during the formal Inaugural session hosted by External Affairs Minister of India and attended by Ministers and Heads of Delegations of ASEAN countries, as well as CMs and Ministers from our North Eastern States.

Today’s Academic Session brings together policy makers, think tanks, business leaders and academics to brain storm on various aspects of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership under the umbrella of the Delhi Dialogue process. Some of the key issues on the agenda are those that are likely to dominate the future discourse in India-ASEAN cooperation, such as Maritime Security, Cyber Security, Skill Development, Knowledge Society and Economy, Cultural Linkages, Integration of Regional Production Networks and Value Chains, Infrastructure and Energy and the Way Forward for ASEAN-India relations.

Since 2009, the Delhi Dialogue has emerged as a useful Track 1.5 platform for discussions between Government representatives, Track II experts and business representatives on political, economic and security issues of interest to both India and ASEAN. Delhi Dialogue VII assumes far greater significance since it comes in a landmark year for ASEAN, and by implication, for the region as it moves towards the ASEAN Economic Community to create a free market for goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labour. India has been an active participant in the region with which it shares civilisational linkages and common history and will continue to carve out a role for itself in the post-2015 agenda.

The India-ASEAN relationship has grown and is a Strategic Partnership since 2012. Today, relations with the ASEAN are one of the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy. Our Ministers and officials meet regularly to expand our collaborative agenda, while our Leaders meet every year to provide leadership and vision to the relationship. There has been deepening of cooperation across the three pillars of our relationship- politico-security, economic and socio-cultural, in the last twenty three years.

In recent times, as political, economic and security structures evolve, Asia is assuming new responsibilities commensurate with its capacities. In this scenario, ASEAN and India are and will remain natural partners in defining their perspectives and addressing their common requirements of economic growth and prosperity. We are together in the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ADMM+ and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum, which are important initiatives for evolving an open and inclusive regional architecture. We continue to support ASEAN’s central role in this regional architecture.

The unprecedented changes in global dynamics underline the necessity of a stable and a peaceful regional environment, ASEAN’s centrality in the evolving regional architecture, and enhanced India-ASEAN cooperation for maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. Our collaboration should deepen in the realm of maritime security, humanitarian and disaster relief, anti-piracy and counter-terrorism.

Similarly, the importance of cyber security and need for cooperation in this vital domain cannot be overstated. Cyber space is now acknowledged as the fifth domain of human activity, after land, sea, air and outer space. While ASEAN and India have taken steps to firm up their cyber security regimes, they are yet to establish a strong relationship in this domain. We have made a good beginning though, by organizing the ASEAN-India Cyber Security Conference on 19 January 2015 at New Delhi which brought together experts from ASEAN and India to exchange views on the current state of technical knowledge in cyber security and the measures required to build further capacity in this domain. The event was successful in identifying the opportunities for greater collaboration on cyber-related challenges and also recommending necessary policy measures to strengthen the cooperation. ASEAN's centrality is the driving force of the emerging economic and security structures in the region.

The cross cultural exchanges are linked inextricably with the economic and security pillars of the ASEAN Community. India and ASEAN countries share long history and civilizational linkages, long before their Governments decided to embark upon a partnership in 1992. The connections between India and South East Asia are deeply rooted and have evolved together through exchanges of people, ideas and goods, over the millennia. It has been a two-way civilizational connect with a history of trade, commerce and educational exchanges. In modern times, we have not only been able to rediscover it but also advance it to diverse areas for mutual benefit of peoples of India and ASEAN region.

India's socio-cultural links remain in Asia ranging from Angkor Wat to Garuda and Ganesha; from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the roots of South East Asian languages in Sanskrit and Pali, from the dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kathak to the traditional systems of Yoga and Ayurveda. The highlights of our socio-cultural engagement in recent years include the memorable Shipping Expedition of INS Sudarshini to nine ASEAN countries and the ASEAN-India Car Rally in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary year of ASEAN-India relations. The revival of Nalanda University, an EAS initiative, is a multinational project, in partnership with many countries of the region.

Coming to the realm of knowledge society and skill development, I would like to re-emphasise that India has always been willing to share its developmental experience with friends. India contributes to narrowing the developmental gaps in ASEAN by supporting capacity building programmes in the CLMV countries, namely, the creation of Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC) and Centres for English Language Training (CELTs) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. The ASEAN-India Fund (AIF), ASEAN-India Green Fund (AIGF) and ASEAN-India Science & Technology Development Fund (AISTDF) have been established to finance our ever-expanding collaborative agenda.

We should continue our cooperation and share best practices and advance collaboration in tele-medicine and health care access, clean technologies and biotechnology, urban planning including water and air management, agriculture and food security, R&D and S&T, remote sensing and space cooperation, governance and anti corruption mechanisms for efficient delivery of citizen services.

We regularly organize exchange programmes and visits of media-persons, students, farmers, diplomats and experts. There is no room for complacency and a lot needs to be done to meet the rising expectations of our people. Visa facilitation and medical tourism will enhance people to people linkages. We are planning to extend the Visa on Arrival scheme from the present figure of 43, which includes 8 ASEAN countries, to 150 countries in a phased manner. The seamless movement of people, knowledge, ideas, goods, services and spiritual traditions will enhance prospects for greater cooperation in the globalised world.

On the economic front, the economic underpinnings of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership have been strengthened by the signing of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investments, which will come into force later this year. The Services and Investment Agreements complete the ASEAN-India FTA and are expected to bolster our economic partnership. The volume of trade and investment flows between ASEAN and India have been increasing at a healthy pace, but remains relatively low compared with other dialogue partners of ASEAN. The trade between ASEAN and India has grown 20 times in the last 20 years to reach over USD 74 billion in 2013-14.The target is to achieve trade worth $100 billion by 2015 and our ambition is to scale $200 billion by 2022. The negotiations for arriving on a common ground on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP are also under way.

The formation of the ASEAN Economic Community by this year end would be a major milestone. With a population of 620 million comprising the world's seventh largest economy, the AEC is being perceived as an economic powerhouse in the making. It will generate tremendous growth potential and new opportunities for promoting bilateral trade and building business partnerships, particularly in the SME sector. Given the diversity in the economic activity among the member states, the region stands to benefit from the financial savvyiness and capital of developed economies and the competitive costs and abundant labour and resources of the less-developed member countries.

The success of the regional integration will be determined by the efforts made to realize the full trade and investment potential. Enhancing regional connectivity lies at the core of regional integration. Connectivity with ASEAN- geographical, institutional and people-to-people, is a strategic priority for India. We are working with ASEAN in enhancing physical and institutional connectivity.

In particular, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral highway, Kaladan Multimodal Transport Corridor and Mekong-India Economic Corridor will dramatically reduce travel time and open up numerous cross border possibilities for trade and investment. Industrial clusters located along the connectivity corridors will emerge as economic nodes with many possibilities.

Development and integration of different subregional and multimodal transport corridors is very important to promote seamless connectivity. Besides physical infrastructure issues, there is a need to address soft connectivity issues as well, including cross-border transit facilitation measures, customs clearance and other facilitative polices and regulations to encourage production networks and economic integration in the region.

As we push forward our connectivity agenda, we must work to enhance our maritime connectivity. We have taken few small steps in this direction by beginning discussions on the ASEAN-India Maritime Cooperation Agreement this year. The freighter service started by the Shipping Corporation of India from Chennai to Yangon has also met with commercial success and could pave the way for more such ventures in the future. We are also making efforts to enhance air connectivity to and from ASEAN countries. At the 2nd ACCC-India meeting in September 2014, we decided to establish a Working Group on civil aviation matters to take this forward.

Economic integration hinges on reduction of tariff and non tariff barriers and easing investment regimes, as well as on the free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labour. As we look to the future, we must empower our youth across the spectrum of higher education, practical skills and vocational training, capacity building and distance learning oriented towards trade and technological advancement. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications will promote movement of professionals and experts across the geographic borders.

The projected increase in people movement and goods and services trade in the region over the next few decades underscore the need to build critical infrastructure. The opportunities for investments in infrastructure including urban planning are huge in the region. Building critical infrastructure, including sustainable urban communities and investments in human-capital development will enhance and facilitate our global competitiveness in a wide range of industries.

In this digital age, we also need think of virtual networks as a way forward for connecting the region. There is vast potential for economic opportunity and job creation through Information Highways.

The Asia Pacific region faces an acute demand for energy. It is essential to think ambitiously of what we can do in Renewable Energy and Energy efficiency. Information sharing, capacity building, technical cooperation, knowledge management and human resource development are first few steps to boost institutional and private sector cooperation in this area.

In the end, I would like to reiterate that India and ASEAN share a vision of a peaceful, prosperous and resurgent Asia, which contributes to global peace and security.

I am confident today's deliberations will come up with recommendations on transforming the vision of our Leaders into reality, thus furthering the ASEAN-India strategic partnership to the next high level and realizing our joint vision.

I would like to compliment all the partners and associates for Delhi Dialogue VII for making this possible. I wish you success in your deliberations, and look forward to receive your recommendations.

Thank you.

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