October 10, 2013
Brunei Darussalam

PM's opening statement at 11th India-ASEAN Summit in Brunei Darussalam

"It is indeed a great pleasure to join all of you in this beautiful country for the 11th India-ASEAN Summit. I am grateful to His Majesty the Sultan and the people of Brunei Darussalam for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality accorded to my delegation and me and the excellent arrangements made for our meeting today.

I also thank all of you for a memorable Commemorative Summit in New Delhi last December. Our decision at that Summit to elevate India-ASEAN relations to a Strategic Partnership has set the stage for a truly enriching relationship between us.

Excellencies, all our countries have equal stakes in the security and prosperity of our shared Asian neighbourhood. The global economic crisis and turmoil in different parts of the world underscore the salience of our robust partnership. The scope of India’s engagement with East and Southeast Asia has grown steadily in the last two decades.  We seek to promote not only mutually beneficial bilateral relations, but also to work institutionally with regional partners and foster a climate that is conducive to stability, security and economic development in our region.

Excellencies, it is to the great credit of the ASEAN countries that they have led the way in cooperation and integration, not only among themselves, but also in the broader region. For India, it is an article of faith of our Look-East policy that ASEAN must remain central to the future evolution of regional mechanisms, which must be open and inclusive. We share your vision and aspirations for the region and we applaud your march towards an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Excellencies, over two decades, India and ASEAN have established a comprehensive agenda of cooperation and a wide-ranging framework to pursue it. Today, we stand on the threshold of the third decade of our engagement. In keeping with our substantial achievements, the recent elevation of our ties to a strategic partnership and the rich potential of our cooperation, I feel it would be appropriate for me to take this opportunity to announce that India will soon set up a separate Mission to the ASEAN in Jakarta with a full time resident Ambassador. I hope we will have your full support and cooperation in this endeavour.

Excellencies, since we last met in Delhi, there have been some important developments that I would like to highlight. India stands ready for the signature of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement on Services and Investment by the end of this year and its early implementation. This will complement our Agreement on Goods and bolster our economic partnership. I also welcome efforts by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to revitalize the ASEAN-India Business Council and to set up an ASEAN-India Trade and Investment Centre. These measures will contribute to stronger trade and investment flows between us. 

India-ASEAN trade stood at 76 billion US dollars last year. I remain confident that we can meet our target of 100 billion US dollars by 2015 and double that volume by 2022.

Connectivity is a strategic priority in our relationship. We are nearing completion of the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo sector of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. Repairs to 71 bridges on this road and work on upgrading a 120 km sector between Kalewa and Yargyi are to begin soon. We will work closely with Thailand and Myanmar to ensure that this project is completed by 2016.

It would be useful to look at the extension of this Highway to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, its further linkage with ports in ASEAN countries and its integration with models like Special Economic Zones. This would call for innovative financial and institutional mechanisms. I hope our Ministers and officials can discuss these ideas further.

The first meeting between the ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee and India took place this year. The decision to establish a Working Group on Soft Infrastructure along our corridors of connectivity addresses a key factor in the success of the connectivity projects. I would suggest that our officials begin discussions on an ASEAN-India Transit Transport Agreement with a view to completing it by 2015. I also look forward to the proposed Maritime Transport Working Group being set up soon.
Excellencies, the ASEAN theme of “Our People, Our Future Together” for this year is indeed appropriate. People-to-people engagement must also sustain the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. We must create a policy environment and visa regime that facilitates our professionals and entrepreneurs to travel and work across our region.

I am particularly pleased with the success of our recently established exchange programme for our students, farmers, diplomats, media and parliamentarians and the ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks.  These exchanges sow the seeds of better understanding and productive partnerships between our countries. I am glad to inform Your Excellencies that, as announced last year, we have set up an ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi to supplement these efforts towards cooperation.

Many of our cooperative projects with the ASEAN under the Plan of Action for 2010 to 2015 are coming to fruition. The project to establish a Satellite Tracking and Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam and the upgrading of a Telemetry Tracking and Command Station in Indonesia will begin to see implementation by April 2014. Projects to set up four IT Centres in CLMV countries, supported by a Resource Centre located in India, have also been finalized for implementation.   

Excellencies, I would like to thank you for your support to the revival of the Nalanda University. Nalanda is a common heritage of India and Southeast Asia. As the University begins its academic programme next year, I would welcome active participation of ASEAN students and faculty in making it a successful venture.
Excellencies, the growing strategic content in relations between India and ASEAN responds to our shared security challenges and supplements India’s deepening security cooperation with ASEAN countries bilaterally. I am pleased that India and ASEAN have identified eight focus areas for cooperation on transnational crime and that we are in the process of formulating a work plan to combat international terrorism.

Excellencies, before I conclude, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the role played by Brunei Darussalam as the ASEAN Country Coordinator for India this year. I would also like to place on record our appreciation for the ASEAN Secretary General and his team for their assistance in implementing the specific contours of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership. Finally, we wish Myanmar, our bridge to the ASEAN, all success and pledge it our support as it assumes the ASEAN Chair in 2014.

Thank you."