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Address by Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh at the 7th edition of ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks (AINITT) on "Post-Covid-19 Recovery: Regional Cooperation Agenda for ASEAN-India Partnership"

May 12, 2022

H.E. Dr Kung Phoak, Secretary of State, Cambodia
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very Good Morning!

1. It is my pleasure to address this august gathering for the 7th edition of the ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks. I extend my gratitude to Secretary Phoak for Cambodia’s support, in its capacity as ASEAN Chair, to India for jointly organizing this important event of annual ASEAN-India Calendar.

2. I commend ASEAN-India Centre at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, New Delhi and Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace, Phonm Penh for bringing together the think-tanks and foreign policy experts from ASEAN and India to discuss the ASEAN-India relations and the bouquet of opportunities it presents.

3. It is particularly pertinent this year, as we celebrate 30 years of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations in the form of ASEAN-India Friendship Year.

4. The last meeting of ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks took place in August 2020 in virtual mode under the shadow of the initial wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we still had some insightful discussions around strengthening partnership in the Post Covid era.

5. Two years since, and we are continuing with our Virtual engagement. We have come a long way since then, the understanding of the pandemic has evolved; vaccines have been developed and distributed; however the situation has not fully abated. Subsequent mutant Covid variants and consequent pandemic waves have brought us to the realization that the post-vaccine world may still not be a post-pandemic world.

6. The COVID pandemic, as we all know, has been one of the greatest shocks to the international system in the recent memory. It is beyond doubt a health catastrophe, but has also delivered an enormous economic jolt, fundamentally changing the way we imagined societies, workplaces and governance.

7. The pandemic has disrupted our supply chains, negatively impacted manufacturing, made international trade unpredictable and ruined many services sectors. Additionally the recent developments in Ukraine have added to international challenges.

8. We all recognize that we face the headwinds both from global economic and security scenarios.

9. These unforeseen developments have underscored the importance of strengthening regional cooperation for ensuring security and growth of the region.

10. While the current geo-economic and geo-political scenarios has created warranted stress, ASEAN and its related architecture still stands tall in providing an important framework to strengthen such multilateral cooperation.

11. I take this opportunity to once again reiterate India’s firm commitment to ASEAN centrality and unity in the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN-India cooperation is one of the pillars to promote peace, prosperity and security of the Indo-Pacific. Convergence of AOIP and IPOI is a testament to our shared views for the region.

12. Ladies and Gentlemen! Under the current global circumstances I can think of three prominent areas which would be most relevant for regional cooperation between India and ASEAN. These would be Health Security, Digital Economy and Green & Sustainable Development.

13. During the pandemic, India has taken a whole of government and whole of society approach especially in the initial procurement and distribution of medical assistance and also in its massive vaccination drive which has also extended to our partner countries including ASEAN countries, under our Vaccine Maitri and Quad Vaccine Initiative.

14. We are also appreciative of the support which we received from various ASEAN countries when India was in the grips of the Second Covid wave.

15. As important partners in the region, it is now time for India and ASEAN to move beyond these exchanges based on immediate needs and build meaningful health partnerships. There are opportunities for us to build long-term partnership by sharing medical technologies and traditional medical knowledge, by collaborating in vaccine and pharmaceutical research, production & distribution as well as by cooperating for capacity building.

16. Ladies and Gentlemen! As we talk about post-pandemic recovery, changes within societies are also important to recognize. Many societies have discovered the real potential of the digital in this process of recovery. Whether it was in terms of government or business or indeed public goods as finance, education and health, the digital medium helped provide better and more effective solutions and kept the supply chains open.

17. India has made significant investments in creating a robust digital infrastructure including platform such as UPI for digital finance, Aadhar for Unique Identification, Arogya Setu for tracking infections and Co-Win portal for facilitating vaccination.

18. Promotion of Digital Economy is also a priority for ASEAN countries. Strengthening digital connectivity between India and ASEAN, therefore seems to be logical area of cooperation for our economic prosperity and development. In this context, India and ASEAN can also work together to address the Digital gap by sharing of experience and solutions.

19. Ladies and Gentlemen! India and ASEAN countries have always been mindful of the environmental impact of our actions. This is, therefore, also an occasion to reflect, perhaps introspect on how to ensure a greener economic recovery.

20. India has a strong record on climate action and has an ambitious vision, including for renewables and green hydrogen. There is great potential for cooperation between India and ASEAN for building a clean and green community.

21. We have been working together through the ASEAN-India Green Fund to support various activities and projects related to climate change, energy efficiency, clean technologies, renewable energy, biodiversity conservation and environmental education.

22. I am happy to note that earlier this year, India hosted an ASEAN-India High Level Conference on Renewable Energy, which discussed and deliberated on various aspects of working towards the shared goal of clean and green energy. We intend to further work with ASEAN for a green and sustainable economic development and recovery.

23. Sustainable Development also lies at the heart of Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI) and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which provides another avenue for strengthening ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.

24. Esteemed Participants! India’s ties with the ASEAN are rooted in history, geography and culture. Today, India's engagement with ASEAN is driven by our common priorities of bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the region.

25. ASEAN is central to India's 'Act East' Policy. Our ties are a source of balance and harmony in the region. In these difficult times of global challenges such as the pandemic & economic & geo-political uncertainties, our excellent and multifaceted Strategic Partnership is a bright spot of optimism.

26. I hope that the discussions today will generate new ideas for taking forward the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership in the post-pandemic world.

With these few word, let me conclude.

Thank You!


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