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Published On:11 July 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Nitty-gritty of issues discussed at Int’l. Conf. on ‘Indo-ASEAN Trade and Investment’

By Pervez Bari

New Delhi: On the second day of the three-day International Conference on “Indo-ASEAN Trade and Investment” here on Saturday experts, scholars and delegates deliberated in the four business sessions the nitty-gritty of the issues while applying their minds to the solution of the problems.

The conference has been organized here under the aegis of Institute of Objective Studies, (IOS), in collaboration with the Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum at the India International Centre.

The first business session on Saturday was presided over by Dr. Naushad Ali Azad, Former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The theme was “Importance of Indo-ASEAN Relationship and Ocean Aspects of Linkages in Changing Global Scenario”. The second business session, which was chaired by Mr. Ravi Kishore, Secretary General (Hony.), IAECF and Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, the theme was “Peace and Development – I Infrastructure – Real Estate, Roadways, Telecom”. The third business session was presided over by Dr. Ausaf Ahmad, Finance Secretary IOS. It was on the theme “Peace and Development – II Finance, Banking and Insurance”. While the fourth business session was chaired by Prof. Qamar Ahsan, former VC, Maulana Mazhar-ul-Haq Arabic and Persian University, Patna. It was on the theme “Peace, Development and Economic Cooperation”.

Meanwhile, a book entitled “Hanuman Gurhie Ayodhya” based on an incident of 28th July, 1855 which is said to be the root cause of Babari Masjid dispute was released by Ms Hendra Henny Andries, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Indonesia in India, in the second business session of the conference.

The book which was hanging fire for the last 15 years due to impediments created by the West Bengal Government has been now published by the Institute of Objective Studies, IOS), New Delhi. It has been penned by Sher Singh, a retired IAS officer of 1974 batch of West Bengal cadre. Sher Singh had to pay with his bureaucratic career when he was suspended in the year 1994 and then dismissed from service in 2000 by the left Front ruled West Bengal Government for publishing the book “The Secular Emperor Babar”. He took up research work on Emperor Babar in 1986 after the unlocking of Babri Masjid. His another treatise on Emperor Babar is “Archaeology of Babri Masjid, Ayodhya”.

Dr. Uma Shankar, Associate Professor of political, University of Delhi, speaking in the first business session on the theme “Importance of Indo-ASEAN Relationship and Ocean Aspects of Linkages in Changing Global Scenario” said the fast growing India’s economic interaction with East Asia since 1991 is a commentary on the mature and timely initiative of the then Indian leadership in its foreign policy. In the post-Soviet world continuing with its anti-imperial past, India’s Look East Policy was quite logical. Economic liberlisation and globalization has released India’s growth potential without falling into the Western umbrella. The East Asia with ASEAN countries China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand provide India a peaceful environment for its growth. Myanmar is a land bridge which India is trying to cultivate in a friendly partnership without interfering in its domestic politics. Pragmatic national interests guide India’s foreign policy. The economic growth of the North East region by opening this region to East Asia would be accelerated. The geographical handicap of the North East region can be compensated by increased linkages with ASEAN countries, he added.

Dr. Shankar said India’s growing stake in East Asia is a win-win situation for all. India has no territorial or other disputes with ASEAN countries. Good and closely integrated relations with East Asia will have moderating influence on China also without military or strategic pact. India’s increasing stake in East Asia will facilitate peaceful rise of India and China. Without being in a competitive relationship with China, what is India’s disadvantage in unstable and disturb South Asia environment the East Asia will give India a breathing space.

In the same session Mr. Mohammad Shahnawaz Abdin, Assistant Professor, Department of Management, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, making a Power Point presentation concluded: (i) Growth prospects for Indo–ASEAN relation are quite positive, and trade can play a central role; (ii) Regionalism and trade facilitation should be very high priorities for the region; (iii) Asian trade can increase in nearly all directions including Indo – ASEAN which is getting one of the highest growth rates; (iv) Modest progress towards improving regional trade efficiency will have great implication on overall trade and (v) ASEAN will contribute to Asian regional convergence.

Mr. Shahnawaz Abdin observed that the road ahead for Indo–ASEAN relation includes: (a) Institutional development and policy reforms to attract the investment (domestic and FDI); (b) Cooperation on trade related infrastructure development; (c) Human resources development especially labor productivity enhancement; (d) Capacity building programs in the area of risk assessment; (e) Preparation of action plans that focus on regional and global trade facilitation; (f) Emphasis on micro and macro level economy; (g) Public, private sector partnership (PPP) for community development and (h) Regular research on trade and its impact on local communities.

Ms Rouble Sharma, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Delhi, also presenting her paper in the first session said that during the last decade (2002-2010), India’s relations with the ASEAN have been cemented and strengthened. India’s entry into ASEAN is really an opportunity to prove itself as a responsible and responsive good neighbour interested in regional cooperation. The new status enabled India to play a responsible role in promoting regional peace and stability in the region.

Ms Sharma said this was justified by the common stand India and ASEAN adopted on various regional and international issues including terrorism, integration with global economy and functional cooperation in diverse fields including science and technology, human resources development, trade and investment and transport and communication. India and ASEAN are truly partners in progress. India is privileged to be part of a process that is contributing to ever widening circles of prosperity.

“Our relationship with the ASEAN countries is the pillar of our ‘‘Look East Policy’’. The best aspect of India-ASEAN renewed engagements is that both of them recognise now that they have something to offer one another”, she pointed out.

Prof. Veena Sikri, a Visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia, New Delhi and Prof. N. Chandra Mohan, Economist and Commentator, also put forth their views in the first session. Prof. Sikri said the prospects of relations between India and ASEAN and maritime communications are very bright. Prof. Chandra Mohan said to change the global scenario it is necessary to further strengthen the ties and maritime communications between India and ASEAN. He said to bring about a revolutionary change in the world these two points cannot be ignored.

Ms Hendra Henny Andries, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Indonesia in India, while presenting her paper in the second session on theme “Peace and Development – I Infrastructure – Real Estate, Roadways, Telecom” invited Indians to tour Indonesia saying natural beauties and many things of common interests are awaiting them. She said culturally also there are many things of common interests between Indonesia and India. The biggest thing common is the religion of Islam between the two countries where Muslims are found in large numbers. It may be noted that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and India stands second in this context.

Ms Andries said Indonesia has the largest economy in South East Asia and third fastest growing economy in Asia. She invited Indian investors to extend their business in Indonesia.

Dr. Arshi Khan, Associate Professor of Political Science in Aligarh Muslim University, expressing his views in the second session said ASEAN is in its dialectical advance towards development through peace, security and regional stability. As a geo-political and economic organisation it is still in transition, towards reaching the goal of Vision 2020 for creating a unified legal entity, consolidated ASEAN identity, a single market and a socio-cultural community.

Dr. Khan, moreover, said ASEAN believes in promoting trade and commerce through improving political principles, security and strategic considerations. In this pursuit, ASEAN leaders have expressed commitment to build relations among themselves and to build partnership with other potential countries of the East Asia. On the other hand, there are multiple challenges from within and outside the ASEAN such as Thailand-Cambodia rift, violence in some areas, democracy deficit in Myanmar etc. However, there are several positive indicators for ASEAN to move ahead, he added.

Dr. Faisal Ahmed, Associate Director, Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment, CUTS International spoke on the geo-economics of region building in Asia with reference to India’s engagements with ASEAN in the second session.

Dr. Ahmed said India has always played a significant role in the evolution of international trading systems and its geo-economic diplomacy and region building efforts have been influencing trade policies at all levels – bilateral, regional and multilateral. There is huge variation in resource endowments across Asia, which has formed the basis of economic complementarities. Thus, there is an inherent need to integrate the sub-regional identities, which can make regional cooperation more comprehensive and sustainable, he added.

“I strongly hold that the formation of an Asian Economic Community (AEC) is imminent and India can play an instrumental role in its formation. The whole of Asia is well-knit through the Indian Ocean which brings all sub-regional identities in close geographical proximities, thereby providing a natural base for trade and mobility of people. The focus of contemporary geopolitics has shifted from power equations to co-existence of nations through their mutual economic interdependence, and this is clearly evident in the Asian region”, he remarked.

The recommendations of Dr. Ahmed included: 1. Bilateral investments should aim for development within the existing country systems; 2. There is a need to promote the sharing of best practices in trade and development-related institutional support system within Asia; 3. Public diplomacy and people-to-people contact should be strengthened through a comprehensive institutional framework, and not merely through Diaspora; 4. It is high time to come out of sub-regional identities and work toward the fulfillment of an Asian identity which could, in itself, be capable of managing critical issues like food security, energy security, and developmental outreach and 5. Asia also need to address the MDGs by the year 2015, and it can be done smoothly only by focusing on south-south cooperation, knowledge sharing and intra-regional capacity building initiatives.

Meanwhile, Prof. M. H. Qureshi, Professor, A.M. Khwaja Chair, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Syed Mohamed Beary, Chairman & Managing Director, Bearys Group, Bangalore; Prof. M. Ishtiyaq, Professor of Geography, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish, Professor of Islamic Studies, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi; Adv. Mushtaq Ahmad, Advocate, Supreme Court of India; Parwaaz Rahmani, Editor-in-Chief, Dawat (Sehroza) were felicitated on the occasion with IOS awards which included a shawl, a memento and a Certificate of Appreciation for their achievements in their field of activities.

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

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