November 19, 2012
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

PM's opening remarks at the 10th India-ASEAN Summit

"It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to join you for the 10th India-ASEAN Summit. I thank Prime Minister HUN SEN and the people of Cambodia for their warm welcome and generous hospitality, and for the excellent arrangements for the Summit.

A visit to Cambodia never fails to remind that India’s relations with South-east Asia rest on the foundations of historical links and ancient cultural ties. Today, they are invigorated by the recognition of our increasingly shared destinies. 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.

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.

Excellencies, a future of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific requires 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.

ASEAN’s leadership in fostering cooperation and building better understanding in the larger Asia Pacific community is admirable. We believe that ASEAN centrality is essential in the evolving regional architecture for peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Excellencies, India’s relationship with ASEAN members and with ASEAN institutionally continues to grow in all dimensions. Commerce and connectivity are vital areas of this relationship and we have made good progress in both.

The India-ASEAN Agreement on Trade in Goods has served us well. 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.

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.

We have also held discussions with ASEAN in the Land Transport Working Group, the Maritime Transport Working Group and the ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee. The Trilateral Highway Task Force met in New Delhi and resolved to establish connectivity from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand by 2016. These are welcome steps in implementing the vision of India-ASEAN connectivity. We await route alignments on the extension of the Trilateral Highway and the proposed new highway to Vietnam so that these can be examined in an integrated manner. I look forward to early completion of the feasibility studies.

I am also happy that our people are also connecting with each other. A large number of ASEAN students, Senior Editors, diplomats and farmers are visiting India in December 2012 and will join us at the ceremonial flag down of the Car Rally in New Delhi. India and ASEAN have signed a unique 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.

Excellencies, our cooperation is growing rapidly across an increasingly wide range of sectors and fields. The meetings between our Ministers of Environment, New & Renewable Energy, Tourism, Agriculture and Telecommunications during the year reflect this growing momentum. We have begun consultations on deepening our linkages in the important sector of medium and small scale industries, which are engines of employment and innovation in our countries.

The launch of an ASEAN-India Newsletter on Agriculture and Forestry is a very important initiative and 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. The first meeting between the heads of space agencies of India and ASEAN in Bengaluru in June 2012 should enhance cooperation in application of space assets and science for our mutual benefit. Finally, we are making tangible progress on the Plan of Action for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity for 2010-15.

Excellencies, India and ASEAN should not only work for shared prosperity and closer links between our peoples, 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. 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.

Excellencies, 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.

Finally, I am grateful to all of you, Excellencies, for confirming your participation in the Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on 20-21December, 2012. I look forward to receiving you for what will be an opportunity to celebrate the progress in India-ASEAN relations over the past decade and outline a vision for a future partnership for peace and prosperity, not only for our countries, but also for the wider region.

I thank you."