Published On:09 July 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Indian Ocean bridge between ASEAN & India: Salman Khurshid

By Pervez Bari

New Delh: Salman Khurshid, Union Minister for Minority Affairs & Water Resources, has termed the Indian Ocean as the bridge between ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and India. It is the medium of water through which trade between the 10 countries of ASEAN and India has been going on which should be further focused to increase the volume of trade in line with Look East Policy which Government of India has been following.

Khurshid Alam was inaugurating the three-day International Conference on “INDO-ASEAN TRADE AND INVESTMENT” organized here from Friday under the aegis of Institute of Objective Studies, (IOS), in collaboration with the Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum at the India International Centre.

He said water in the Indian Ocean is of strategic importance which can tilt the world’s power center. He gave food for thought to ponder over the triangle of SAARC, ASEAN and the Indian Ocean as to who could become the pivot or the stepping stone to bring about a revolutionary change in trade and commerce activities. The deliberations in the conference in the next two days should think over this aspect and draw up some action plan, he added.

K. Rahman Khan, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, who presided over the inaugural function said the signing of ASEAN-India Trade in Goods in 2009 will pave the way for the creation of one of the world’s largest Free Trade Areas, (FTA), - a market of almost 1.8 billion people with combined GDP of US $ 2.8 trillion. This will fulfill the dream of rise of Asia, he added.

He pointed out that the 19th century belonged to Europe, the 20th century to the United Sates as both the powers gave the “gift” of wars to the world while the 21st century will belong to Asia with peace and tranquility. The ASEAN and SAARC nations should join hands wherein it would show to the whole world its contributions as how to maintain peace and prosperity with dignity of humankind. He lauded the topic of the international conference which is of great importance to India where still a lot has to be done.

Faisal Hassan Trad, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in India; Ronald B. Allarey, Ambassador, Embassy of Philippines & Chairman, ASEAN New Delhi Committee; Dato Paduka Sidek Ali, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam in India; and Ms Hendra Henny Andries, Minister Counselor, Embassy of Indonesia in India; were guests of honour on the occasion.

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman of IOS, speaking on the occasion said: “Like any fast rising power, we are in need of immediately reorienting our foreign policy, aligning it with our growing prosperity and influence, addressing our economic and security concerns in the fast-changing new environment. We have to think less of the West and more of East, that is Asia. It is time for the Look-East policy initiated with our becoming a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN 19 years ago”.

Dr. Alam said that the sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN was upgraded to a full dialogue partnership in 1995. It grew further with an Indo-ASEAN summit in 2002 at Phnom Penh, and after that Indo-ASEAN summits became a regular annual affair. The relationship has been working at summit, ministerial and secretarial levels across a broad array of sectors: trade, security, culture environment and the whole gamut.

He said that the trade volume grew by 11.2 percent annually between 1993 and 2003, from $ 2.9 billion to $ 12.1 billion. In 2008, the two-way trade stood at $ 47.5 billion. In 2008, India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in ASEAN states was $ 591 million (1.2 percent of the total FDI in the ASEAN states, which rose to $ 970 million in 2009 (2.5 percent of the total).

India stood as the seventh largest trading partner of ASEAN and the sixth largest FDI investor there in 2009. At their summit last year, India and ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to bring the volume of mutual trade to $ 70 billion by 2012, he added.

However, Dr. Alam lamented that apart from this positive side, there is problem side which is trade in services. India is rightly demanding the same terms in services sector as the ASEAN offers to its members. Australia and New Zealand enjoy more advantageous terms in services trade with ASEAN, he pointed out.

Ronald B. Allarey, Ambassador, Embassy of Philippines & Chairman, ASEAN New Delhi Committee, while expressing his happiness over the conference said since India became a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, the collaboration has transcended the realm of functional cooperation to cover political and security dimensions. He said that ASEAN and India will mark the 20th anniversary of their dialogue relations in 2012 with a Commemorative Summit to be held in India. A number of commemorative activities have been planned to signify the expanding and deepening of the dialogue partnership.

Mr. Allarey said in 2008, the total volume of ASEAN-India trade was US$ 47.5 billion ASEAN’s export to India was US$ 30.8 billion – a growth of 24.4% in comparison with that of 2007. ASEAN’s import from India was US$ 17.9 billion – a growth of 44.5% in comparison to that of 2007. In 2009, the two-way trade between ASEAN and India stood at US$ 39.1 billion. As for foreign direct investment (FDI), the inflow from India to ASEAN Member States was US$ 591 in 2008, accounting for 1.2% of total FDI in the region. In 2009, the FDI inflow from India to ASEAN was US$ 970 million, accounting for 2.5% of total FDI in the region. Despite impact of the global financial/economic crisis, India remained the seventh largest trading partner of ASEAN and the sixth largest investor in ASEAN in 2009.

Referring to Mr. Khurshid's triangle Mr. Allarey said this conference is a fitting example of trilateral cooperation between India, Saudi Arab and ASEAN countries.

Prof. (Dr.) Vinaysheel Gautam, Founding Director IIM (K;) Prof. & First Head, Management Studies IIT (D), in his special address stressed the need that since India is emerging as an economic power there are many avenues for the ASEAN countries which must be attracted for the benefit of both.

Mr. Ravi Kishore, Secretary General (Hony.), IAECF and Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, while welcoming the guests said since the 1990s, when India was looking to build new alliances in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, ‘Look East' has been a mantra with successive governments in New Delhi. But India's economic, political, and strategic relationship with the region was slower to develop than with the United States or Europe. The economic setback the Asian Tigers suffered in the closing years of the 20th century slowed it down further. The last few years have seen Delhi hastening to inject more purpose to its engagement with the East Asian countries. That India is now a major economic power has made this equally meaningful for the countries in the region.

The introductory remarks about the IOS were given by Prof. Z. M. Khan, secretary general of the IOS. At the outset Maulana Abdullah Tarique recited verses from the Holy Quran to herald the beginning of the international conference.

Meanwhile, it may be mentioned here that the opening conference of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of IOS was held here with a three-day international conference on “Towards Knowledge, Development and Peace – Outlining Roadmaps for the Future” from April 15 to April 17 at India Islamic Cultural Centre here in New Delhi. A number of renowned scholars from within the country and abroad besides prominent government officials and ministers of India participated in the conference.

[Pervez Bari is a Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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