Describing the presence of heads of state of 10 ASEAN countries at this year’s Republic Day parade as ‘an unprecedented gesture of goodwill from ASEAN nations’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday termed the event as a ‘historic milestone in a remarkable journey that has brought India and ASEAN to a deepening partnership of great promise for their 1.9 billion people’.
In an article in ‘The Strait times’, the PM said, ‘Yesterday, I had the privilege to host the ASEAN leaders for the Commemorative Summit to mark 25 years of ASEAN-India partnership. Their presence with us is an unprecedented gesture of goodwill from ASEAN nations.
Responding to this, on a winter morning, India has come out to greet them in a warm embrace of friendship. This is no ordinary event. It is a historic milestone in a remarkable journey that has brought India and Asean to a deepening partnership of great promise for their 1.9 billion people, about one-fourth of humankind.’
Noting that India’s ties with South-East Asia stretch back more than two millennia, the PM said. Forged in peace and friendship, religion and culture, art and commerce, language and literature, these enduring links are now present in every facet of the magnificent diversity of India and South-east Asia, providing a unique envelope of comfort and familiarity between our people.
Terming the ‘Act East policy’ as a natural offshoot of opening itself to the world, the PM said, “more than two decades ago, India opened itself to the world with tectonic changes.And, with instincts honed over centuries of interaction, it turned naturally to the East. Thus began a new journey of India’s reintegration with the East.
For India, most of our major partners and markets – from ASEAN to East Asia to North America – lie to the East. And South-East Asia and ASEAN, our neighbours by land and sea, have been the springboard of our Look East and, since the last three years, the Act East policy.
Along the way, from dialogue partners, Asean and India have become strategic partners. We advance our broad-based partnership through 30 mechanisms. With each Asean member, we have growing diplomatic, economic and security partnership.’
The PM said “that over the years, trade and investment flows between India and ASEAN nations have multiplied several times.
ASEAN is India’s fourth-largest trading partner, India is ASEAN’s seventh. Over 20 per cent of India’s outbound investments go to Asean. Led by Singapore, Asean is India’s leading source of investments.
India’s free trade agreements in the region are its oldest and among the most ambitious anywhere. Air links have expanded rapidly and we are extending highways deep into continental South-east Asia with new urgency and priority,’ the PM said.
The PM said that India’s partnership in ASEAN-led institutions like the East Asia Summit, ADMM (Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus) and ARF (Asean Regional Forum) is advancing peace and stability in our region.
“India and Asean nations have relations free from contests and claims. We have a common vision for the future, built on commitment to inclusion and integration, belief in sovereign equality of all nations irrespective of size, and support for free and open pathways of commerce and engagement,’ he said.
He said that with rapidly maturing economies – India and Asean will build a strong economic partnership.
“Connectivity will increase and trade will expand. In an era of cooperative and competitive federalism in India, our states are also building productive cooperation with South-east Asian nations.
India’s North-East is on a resurgent path. Links with South-East Asia will accelerate its progress. In turn, a connected North-East will be a bridge to the Asean-India ties of our dreams,’ the PM said.
Claiming that India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world, It has become the new frontier of global opportunities and an anchor of stability of the global economy, the PM expressed hope that Asean nations will be an integral part of New India’s transformation.
“With every passing day, it is easier and smoother to do business in India. I hope that Asean nations, as our neighbours and friends, will be an integral part of New India’s transformation,’ he said.
‘We have the potential to pursue higher ambitions and address the challenges of our times, from infrastructure and urbanisation to resilient agriculture and a healthy planet. We can also use the power of digital technology, innovation and connectivity to transform lives at unprecedented speed and scale.
ASEAN and India have immense opportunities – indeed, enormous responsibility – to chart a steady course through the uncertainty and turbulence of our times to a stable and peaceful future for our region and the world,” the PM said.