- ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership: As always, ASEAN is providing both inspiration and leadership for regional cooperation and integration. And, from India’s perspective, ASEAN values and leadership will remain central to integration across Asia and Pacific. I saw the strength of our relationship and the potential of our partnership; and, even more important, the commitment and confidence that you showed for the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. We meet at a time of multiple global challenges: economic uncertainties, political turmoil and security threats. In this difficult moment, India and ASEAN are two bright spots of optimism. ASEAN’s economy continues to forge ahead with dynamism and energy. I have no doubt that we will reinforce prosperity for our 1.9 billion people.
Trade and Investment: I am pleased that after a temporary decline, our trade increased to about 76.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2014-15; and, so has investment in both directions. ASEAN remains the largest investment partner – both for inward and outward flows. Much of the potential for economic partnership remains untapped. I am confident that our trade and investment will expand, as our economies grow. We can also draw confidence from the progress in our framework of cooperation. The entry into force of our Trade in Services and Investment Agreements in July 2015 is a major step forward. We also look forward to progress in negotiations for a balanced and ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that covers goods and services as well as investments. Connectivity is the pathway to shared prosperity: The Trilateral Highway project is making good progress and should be completed by 2018. We also propose to commit a Line of Credit of 1.0 billion U.S. dollars to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN. Special emphasis on our partnership with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam: Our partnership with them in capacity building projects will expand. In addition, we intend to create a Project Development Fund to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries. Cooperation in Science, Technology and innovation: Science, technology and innovation constitute a vital pillar of our cooperation and support our economic partnership. We will enlarge the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from the current one million U.S. dollars to 5 million U.S. dollars. We also intend to set up an ASEAN-India Innovation Platform to facilitate commercialization of low cost technologies, technology transfer and collaborative R&D projects. Our cooperative project in Space, to be located in Vietnam, is now making concrete progress. I assure you of its early completion. India also offers ASEAN our indigenously developed GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation or GAGAN services, which provides advanced navigation and location assistance and information facilities.
Blue Economy and ocean of opportunities: I also propose that we cooperate in sustainable development of Ocean or Blue Economy. This will be an increasingly important driver of our future economy, and a source of food security, medicines and clean energy. India has entered into collaboration with a number of ocean states. Our future prosperity rests on the foundation of security and stability in our region and the oceans, outer space and cyber world. Cultural Connect: I deeply value our collective efforts to revive the cultural pillar of our relations. An international conference on ASEAN-India Cultural Links was held in New Delhi in July. We are proposing to open an ASEAN Studies Centre in our North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, which is our Gateway to the East. Freedom of Navigation in South China Sea: India shares with ASEAN a commitment to freedom of navigation, over flight and unimpeded commerce, in accordance with accepted principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means. India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and redouble efforts for early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the basis of consensus. We should evolve specific plans of cooperation in maritime security, counter-piracy and humanitarian and disaster relief. Challenges of tackling terrorism: Terrorism has emerged as a major global challenge that affects us all here. We have excellent bilateral cooperation with ASEAN members. And, we should see how we can enhance our cooperation at the regional and international level, including through support for adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.