PM to focus on anti-terror, business cooperation in KL

PM to focus on anti-terror, business cooperation in KLNEW DELHI: Shoring up efforts to combat terrorism and enhancing economic engagement will be the focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addresses two powerful regional blocs at the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits during his tree-day visit to Kuala Lumpur beginning Saturday.

Modi will also hold talks with top leadership of Malaysia on ways to ramp up bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including defense and security and take the strategic ties to a new level. The two sides are likely to sign a number of MoUs.

Combating terrorism is likely to be the major focus area of the 10th East Asia Summit and the Prime Minister will seek concerted efforts to defeat the challenge as the shock of the Paris terrorist attacks jolted the whole world, said officials.

The ASEAN is considered one of the world’s fastest growing regions and both sides are likely to seek greater economic engagement besides expanding cooperation in host of other areas such as maritime security and dealing with illicit drug trafficking and cyber crime.

ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner and India in turn is sixth largest trading partner for the bloc. The combined GDP of both sides is USD 2.57 trillion.

On November 21, Modi will attend the 13th ASEAN-India Summit and will address the East Asia Summit the next day.

“In view of rise of non-traditional security threats ASEAN and India are looking closely in addressing terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber crime and piracy along the Malacca Straight,” said Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa.

Asked about the recent flare up in South China Sea following visit of a US ship, he said India does not favor any party and has been maintaining that any dispute in the region must be resolved through dialogue.

He said India was for speedy implementation of the declaration of code of conduct and was looking forward to conclusion of a document in this regard between ASEAN and China.

India and ASEAN countries are also likely to discuss ways to enhance connectivity links. A motor vehicles agreement among India-Myanmar-Thailand has just been finalized and the negotiations for ASEAN-India maritime transport agreement are also underway, he said.

The leaders of East Asia Summit are expected to discuss matters of international concern including terrorism, irregular migration, South China Sea, situation in Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

About seven statements and declarations are scheduled to be adopted at the summit, said Wadhwa. . A statement on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations is also likely to be issued by the leaders of East Asia Summit.

Wadhwa said negotiations on an RCEP Agreement involving the 10 ASEAN countries and its six FTA partners including India have seen some breakthroughs and are expected to be concluded in 2016.

He said RCEP will open door for Indian business in the RCEP countries having combined GDP of USD 17 trillion.

At the ASEAN summit, the leaders will take note of the new Plan of Action (2016-2020) to further enhance ASEAN-India cooperation along the politico-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.

Seven statements and declarations are expected to be adopted at the EAS to reinforce its commitment to specific issues including countering violent extremism, ensuring security and enhancing regional maritime cooperation.

Modi along with other East Asia Summit Heads of State and Government will also witness the signing ceremony by ASEAN’s “2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community” and the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together”.

India and ASEAN have 30 dialogue mechanisms including a Summit and seven Ministerial meetings in External Affairs, Commerce, Tourism, Agriculture, Environment, Renewable Energy and Telecommunications.

Trade between India and ASEAN stood at USD 76.52 billion in 2014-15. India’s exports to ASEAN were USD 31.81 billion and India’s imports from ASEAN were USD 44.71 billion.

The ASEAN-India economic integration process has got a fillip with the creation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area in July this year, after the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements came into force.

The key members of ASEAN block include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.

Apart from the 10 ASEAN Member states, East Asia Summit members include India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia.

Modi’s visit to Malaysia is also a bilateral one and he will have wide-ranging talks with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. Modi will unveil a statue of Swamy Vivekananda and gift a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to Malaysia.

His engagement in Malaysia will include addressing an Indian community event and interacting with a group of top businessmen. Both sides are expected to sign a MoU to enhance cooperation in cyber-security.

Ties between India and Malaysia are on an upswing and bilateral trade volume last year was around USD 14 billion.

Around 2 million Indians live in Malaysia and constitute 8 per cent of its total population.

The PM will leave for Singapore on a bilateral visit on November 23.–PTI

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