Closing Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. V.K. Singh at the 14th ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Vientiane (July 25, 2016)
July 25, 2016
- Excellencies, I am grateful to all of you for your views and for having listed out the priorities of our engagement and outlining the future direction of our relationship.
- Excellencies, I am happy to note that we agree on holding a variety of commemorative activities on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations in 2017 across the three pillars of politico-security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation. The activities are ambitious, practical and designed to strengthen and showcase the deep bonds that we have forged in our strategic partnership. We should now work assiduously to make this project a resounding success.
- Politico-security cooperation between ASEAN and India is on the upswing. Reflecting our commitment to strengthen cooperation to effectively deal with traditional and non-traditional security challenges, the first G-2-G ASEAN-India Cyber Dialogue would be held in India in August 2016. We have also offered ASEAN countries a "specialized programme on reducing cyber crime through knowledge exchange and capacity building” and a seminar on "e-governance”, as joint activities under ICT cooperation.
- Excellencies, countering terrorism is an imperative, in the face of rising terrorist attacks across the globe, including in our region, notably in Jakarta, Bangkok, Pathankot, Dhaka and Kabul in recent times. It is vital to construct a strong international legal regime, built on the principle of 'zero tolerance' for direct or indirect support to terrorism, adopting an 'extradite or prosecute' standard, and ensuring obligatory collaboration by countries in the investigation of terrorism related cases. Deepening of security cooperation must be based on an outright rejection of state sponsored terrorism, isolating those who harbour, support or sponsor terrorists, and bringing the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors to speedy justice. Today's realities warrant that nations act for urgent finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations. I urge ASEAN countries to support early adoption of the Convention.
- India would also like to host an ASEAN-India Conference on preventing radicalisation and promoting deradicalization, to share India's experience and benefit from the experience of ASEAN countries, notably Malaysia, in this important area. In addition, India will co-cost with Indonesia, an ARF inter-sessional meeting on counter-terrorism.
- To enhance our cooperation in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), we have offered utilization of the ASEAN-India Innovation Platform for the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management Work Plan 2016-20 and the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management, where innovation is a key requirement. India will also be hosting the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction at New Delhi in November 2016 and I invite your countries' active participation in it.
- In the economic sphere, we are happy that the ASEAN-India Trade Negotiation Committee is working to review the ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement in order to realize the full potential of the ASEAN India Free Trade Area. I am also confident that the ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ Meeting and the RCEP Ministerial meeting scheduled in early August will pave the way for smoother and deeper economic engagement, to the satisfaction of all parties. We hope that negotiations on Goods, Services & Investment will move at an equal pace in RCEP.
- Excellencies, I am pleased to note the interest that ASEAN member states expressed in the Make-in-India Week organized in Mumbai in February 2016 and in the Smart Cities Mission. The Business session of Delhi Dialogue VIII held in February 2016 and the 5th India-ASEAN Economic Forum organized by ASSOCHAM on 8 July 2016 also witnessed a free and frank exchange of views for speeding up bilateral trade and investment. FDI flows are robust both ways. As per the Baseline Profitability Index, India was ranked the No. 1 investment destination in the world in 2015 and I invite all ASEAN countries to take part in this new growth story of India.
- India remains committed in its support for implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity as well as and the Post-2015 Agenda for ASEAN Connectivity. Even as we work assiduously to enhance our physical connectivity and explore the extension of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway into Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, I urge Thailand and Myanmar to join hands and find creative solutions for the early conclusion of the Motor Vehicles Agreement and I would also like to invite ASEAN countries to participate in the Sittwe Economic Zone.
- India has shared with ASEAN proposals on digital connectivity outlining an integrated approach involving setting up of a regional high-capacity fiber optic network, a National Rural Broadband Network and Digital Villages in Remote Areas, which would digitally enmesh India and ASEAN, opening up new vistas for cooperation. I request you to consider availing of the Line of Credit of US $1 Billion offered by India in implementing these projects.
- Science and technology is a crucial element of the ASEAN-India partnership and I am happy to note that the Working Group and General Council meeting in Science and Technology is scheduled to take place in New Delhi in August 2016. It has cleared the platform for a new set of activities which would be undertaken utilising the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund, which has been enhanced from US$1 million to 5 million.
- India looks forward to pursue energy security, production and use of renewable and alternative energy sources with ASEAN member states, including promoting private sector engagement in the development and utilization of renewable and alternative energy sources through institutional capacity building. In this regard, we will be training 100 ASEAN personnel in Solar Technology, Wind Energy and Bio-Energy at the earliest.
- The site for the seminal project representing our cooperation in space sector, the establishment of a Tracking, Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam, has been identified by ISRO. I request Vietnam to expedite allotment of land and provide other facilities at the selected site so that construction of the station can commence at the earliest.
- As part of our lasting commitment towards supporting the Initiative for ASEAN integration - Narrowing the Development Gap, in addition to setting up of Centres of Excellence in Software Development and Training in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam as well as Centres for English Language and IT Training, we have offered a range of capacity building projects in ICT, including proposing a new centre for English language and IT training in Myanmar, building digital connectivity through the use of Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology, meeting of ASEAN-India Telecom Regulators, and capacity building training programmes in Institutes of Excellence in India.
- It is a matter of immense satisfaction that people-to-people connects such as exchange programmes for students, media, parliamentarians and farmers, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks and Eminent persons lecture series are being organised regularly. We are happy with the finalization of the MoU on the ASEAN India Centre, which is rendering yeoman's service through its studies in areas of mutual interest, into a joint ASEAN-India organisation.
- Excellencies, the sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development. In the context of the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 UNCLOS in the matter concerning the Philippines and China, India, as a State Party to the UNCLOS, urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which is the foundation of the international legal order of the seas and oceans. Like several ASEAN countries, India too has respected the decision of the International Tribunal to resolve maritime disputes with its neighbours peacefully. India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means, without threat or use of force, and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.
- Let me conclude by affirming that India's relationship with ASEAN is one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy and the foundation of our 'Act East Policy'. We look forward to working closely with you to realise the full potential of our relationship as an enabler for the shared progress and development of our countries and region.