ASEAN and India Reaffirm Strategic Partnership

New Delhi – ASEAN and India reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen and advance the Strategic Partnership and agreed to step-up cooperation at the recent 17th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ Meeting (17th AISOM) held in New Delhi on March 14.

In the course of the Meeting, ASEAN and India had a candid and extensive exchange of views on regional and global developments. On domestic issues, India explained the intention behind its new focus of “Act East” –from the previous “Look East”—approach, that is designed to be even more proactive in India’s engagement with ASEAN and other countries in East Asia.  Within the framework of relations with ASEAN, India reiterated its recognition and support for ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN’s commitment and resolve to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

In addition to traditional security concerns, ASEAN and India agreed to address and combat non-traditional security issues, including terrorism, violent extremism, drugs and other forms of transnational crime.

The Meeting discussed the progress of work towards the realisation the ASEAN Community by end-2015 and the vision and plans beyond 2015. Acknowledging that economic cooperation had yet to achieve its full potential, ASEAN and India agreed to step up efforts in this regard and particularly reap the benefits of the existing economic agreements. The Meeting discussed the ongoing multilateral negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and both sides agreed that a high quality and forward-looking agreement would benefit the region and its peoples.

India expressed support for the ASEAN Connectivity plans and elaborated on the role it intends to play in helping ASEAN realise this vision.  In this regard, India updated the meeting on the progress for linking India with Myanmar and Thailand and eventually extending this land link to the Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Meeting also noted that within the framework of Connectivity, there would be enhanced linkages and flow of goods and services as well as people-to-people contact.

Both sides reviewed the status of the 2010-2015 ASEAN-India Plan of Action and noted the projects and activities realised under this plan. It was also agreed that the successor Plan of Action for the period 2016- 2020 would be more ambitious to further strengthen ASEAN-India relations. The meeting discussed the next steps required to establish the ASEAN-India Centre and noted India’s decision to also establish an ASEAN-India Trade and Investment Centre.

The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei Darussalam and H.E. Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs of India. India’s Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd) Vijay Kumar Singh also joined the meeting and had a brief dialogue with delegates of the Meeting in which he emphasised the importance of ASEAN-India relations and India’s commitment to further strengthen its ties with the region.