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 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
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; Mr.
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
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
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
Referring to Khurshid's triangle 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.
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.