India boosts ASEAN engagement with dedicated mission

India boosts ASEAN engagement with dedicated missionJAKARTA: India today expressed its readiness to bolster cooperation with ASEAN in collectively addressing the “traditional and non-traditional” security challenges facing the region as it formally inaugurated a dedicated mission for the 10-member bloc here.

Inaugurating the mission, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India is resolved to match the expectation of its friends in the region to play a “more active role.”

The event was also attended by ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh and Director General I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja.

Swaraj said the dedicated Mission reflects India’s sincere commitment to intensify its engagement with ASEAN.

“Our officials are currently engaged in drafting the next five year Action Plan for the period 2016-21 for furthering ASEAN-India Cooperation,” she said.

“We would work with our ASEAN colleagues to make it aspirational, yet pragmatic, that will help us realise optimally the potential for sectoral collaboration through a wide array of projects in a spirit of joint partnership and ownership that contributes to mutual learning and benefit,” she added.

The Minister said, “ASEAN lies at the core of India’s Act East policy” which focuses on reorienting partnership with East Asian countries in the 21st century context to make it more “pragmatic, action driven and result oriented”.

“We will also be happy to work with the ASEAN member states and other participating countries of East Asia Summit Process to bolster cooperation in collectively addressing the traditional and non traditional security challenges in order to establish peace and stability in the South East Asia and the Greater East Asia region,” said Swaraj, who is here on a five-day trip to attend Asian African conference.

The work till now was handled by the Indian embassy here but with increasing engagement with South East Asia, it was decided in 2013 to have a separate and dedicated diplomatic mission to cater to the growing diplomatic needs.

Last year, Suresh K Reddy, a veteran diplomat, was appointed as Ambassador to the Indian Mission to ASEAN, which is also headquartered here.

The mission works the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN and the Secretariat which is located.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Six dialogue partners of the bloc – the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – have dedicated missions here.

“I am happy to inform we have just ratified ASEAN India trade and Services and Investments Agreement signed last November. Some ASEAN members have already ratified the agreement,” Swaraj said.

“We are simultaneously endeavoring to see how we can transform corridors of connectivity into corridors of economic cooperation,” she said, adding that in this context Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in the 12th ASEAN-India Summit establishment of a facility to facilitate quick implementation of connectivity projects.

“We are currently working out the modalities of this special facility,” she said.

She said fostering people-to-people linkages lies at the heart of India’s engagement with ASEAN.

“We are also looking to expand our air connectivity particularly between our North East and South East Asia to support the growing people to people linkages,” she added. -PTI

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