Mr. Harsh Pati Singhania, President, FICCI,
Ms. Latha Reddy, Secretary (East), MEA,
Ambassador K. Kesavapany, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies,
Dr. Amit Mitra, Secretary General, FICCI,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. It gives me great pleasure to share my thoughts at the second edition of the Delhi Dialogue. I see that several well known experts, senior business and industry representatives, from India and ASEAN are participating in this Dialogue on the theme of‘India and South East Asia in the Changing Regional Economic Dynamics of Asia: Shared Interests and Concerns’.I welcome His Excellency Dr. Nam Viyaketh, Minister of Commerce and Industry of Laos, and others who have travelled to Delhi to participate in this Dialogue.
  2. India since the early 1990’s has been closely pursuing closer relations with South East Asia and the Pacific region as envisioned in our ‘Look East Policy’. It is our belief that expanding our dialogue and cooperation would greatly contribute to our common endeavour for inclusive socio- economic development of our peoples.
  3. As a part of our Look East policy, we have evolved a multifaceted partnership with ASEAN in recent years. The India-ASEAN partnership saw a remarkable transformation from a sectoral dialogue partnership to a Summit-level interaction within the short span of a decade, with the first Summit level interaction in 2002. We would be privileged to be able to host the India – ASEAN Summit in 2012 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of our Summit level dialogue with ASEAN.
  4. We have diversified and strengthened our relations with the ASEAN countries and stepped up our bilateral relations to the strategic level with some countries of the region. Regular exchanges of high level bilateral visits and close interaction at regional and multilateral fora characterise our growing engagement. Today’s Delhi Dialogue is being held, even as a State visit by the Prime Minister of Malaysia to India is underway. India and ASEAN have also been engaged in developing a broader regional architecture in the Asia- Pacific region. The ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit provide useful opportunities for productive interaction. We see ASEAN as a key element of an Asian economic community architecture that would help bring peace and prosperity to our region.
  5. India-ASEAN cooperation is varied and functional. It includes cooperation in sectors such as Trade and Investment, Science & Technology, Human Resource Development, Health and Pharmaceuticals, Space Sciences, Agriculture, Information and Communication Technology, Transport and Infrastructure, Tourism, Culture, and Small and Medium enterprises.
  6. India ASEAN trade has grown rapidly in recent years. The India – ASEAN Trade – in – Goods Agreement under a Free Trade Agreement, which came into force on 1 January 2010, has opened new possibilities for the expansion of our trade with the region. We hope that agreements on Trade-in-Services and Investment would also be concluded as soon as possible. In addition to the India-ASEAN FTA, with several countries of the region, bilateral FTAs and Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) have been concluded or are being negotiated. With several ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, our bilateral trade turnover has crossed US$ 10 bn. each.
  7. People –to- people contacts and cultural and academic exchanges between India and the countries of the region have continued to grow. The revival of the Nalanda University as an international institution of excellence has emerged as an important initiative that underlines our ancient linkages.
  8. We strongly believe in sharing our developmental experiences with our fellow developing countries. We have been happy to participate in development cooperation programmes with ASEAN countries, and in the “Initiative for ASEAN Integration’ Programme. We have given particular emphasis to human resource development through training, scholarships, establishment of entrepreneurship development centres and language training centres. The ASEAN – India S&T Fund, which has been operationalised, would promote joint collaborative research projects in Science and technology. The proposed India – ASEAN Green Fund, with a corpus of US$ 5 million, would promote adaptation and mitigation technologies in the area of climate change.
  9. At the 7th India – ASEAN Summit, our Prime minister had announced several initiatives to further strengthen the links between India and ASEAN, including establishment of an India-ASEAN Round Table comprising think tanks, policy makers, scholars, media and business representatives that would provide policy inputs to the governments of India and the ASEAN countries on future areas of cooperation; intensification of negotiations on an open skies policy; further simplification of the visa regime to encourage business and tourist travel; more youth exchange programmes; enhanced cooperation in the agriculture sector to meet the challenges of food security; cooperation in the application of space technologies; holding an ASEAN trade and industrial exhibition in India; among others. As announced by Prime Minister, we are ready to allocate upto US $ 50 million to support these initiatives. We would continue to explore ways to further enhance our cooperation and benefit from our complementarities.
  10. In the wake of the recent global financial and economic crisis, which was not of our making, it is imperative to develop greater cooperation among developing countries, so that we have an effective voice in the international financial architecture and a new global economic order.
  11. Energy Security is an issue of great importance for the development, progress and well-being of our peoples. A regional approach on energy matters can accommodate competing demands and constraints while shifting the focus from competition to cooperation based on mutual interests. We look forward to continued engagement with ASEAN countries and our partners in the East Asia Summit on this issue.
  12. The Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) is serving as an important platform for sharing of policy-related research and other experiences. The Government of India has always been supportive of the efforts made by ERIA. I am happy to know that the Executive director of ERIA is participating in this Dialogue.
  13. I take this opportunity to thank and commend the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry for organising this event and hope that the Delhi Dialogue would see fruitful interaction that would contribute to the strengthening of our relationship with South East Asia.
  14. I inaugurate this Delhi Dialogue with a sense of satisfaction, and also with a sense of expectation.

Thank you

New Delhi
January 21, 2010