India to set up separate mission for ASEAN

India to set up separate mission for ASEANBRUNEI: India plans to set up a new mission for ASEAN and would appoint a separate ambassador for the strategically important region as it aims to take forward its relationship with the ten-member block.

The announcement for setting up this new mission is likely to be made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the ASEAN-India summit here tomorrow. Singh arrived here today and would attend the ASEAN summit and also the East Asia Summit tomorrow, before leaving for a bilateral visit to Indonesia from October 10-12.

The new mission would be set up in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia where ASEAN Secretariat is also based, official sources said.

Singh came here today to participate in the 11th ASEAN-India summit, during which he is expected to meet leaders of various countries of this regional grouping that includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

India’s relationship with ASEAN has expanded considerably in the recent years in areas ranging from economy, security and defense cooperation.

“To take this relationship to the next step, we will set up a new mission for ASEAN and a separate ambassador for the region.

“The announcement is expected to be made by the Prime Minister during this trip at the ASEAN-India summit,” official sources said.

India already has separate missions for multi-country groupings like European Union and the United Nations.

India’s ASEAN focus is part of the country’s Look East policy to boost ties with the nations of this region. A Free Trade Agreement in trade and services is already in the making between India and ASEAN and a pact for the same is expected to be signed within the next three months.
According to official sources, the implementation of the new FTA would begin in July 2014. An FTA in trade and goods is already in place between India and ASEAN and the same has helped expand their trade to about USD 76 billion annually.

The new FTA in services and investments is considered to be key in further growing India-ASEAN trade to USD 100 billion in 2015 and to USD 200 billion by 2022.

The areas of cooperation between India and ASEAN include science and technology, agriculture, environment, human resources, space, energy, telecom, infrastructure, tourism, defense, security, culture, health and pharmaceuticals.

The issues to be discussed during PM’s visit could also include progress on Mekong-India project, which has made some improvement, but the pace has been slow, sources said. -PTI

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