Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for enhancing cooperation with ASEAN to tackle the major global challenge of terrorism and underlined the need for settling territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful means.
He suggested evolving specific plans for cooperation with the 10-member grouping in key areas of maritime security, counter-piracy and humanitarian and disaster relief.
“Terrorism has emerged as a major global challenge that affects us all here. We have excellent bilateral cooperation with ASEAN members. And, we should see how we can enhance our cooperation at the regional and international level, including through support for adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism,” Modi said in his opening remarks at the ASEAN-India Summit here.
“As our rapidly transforming region navigates its way through uncertain times to a peaceful and prosperous future, we look forward to ASEAN leading the way in defining the regional architecture,” said Modi, who is here on a three-day visit to attend the ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit.
Referring to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said, “India shares with ASEAN a commitment to freedom of navigation, over flight and unimpeded commerce, in accordance with accepted principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means.”
Modi said India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and redouble efforts for early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the basis of consensus.
Terming connectivity as the pathway to shared prosperity, he said the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project is making good progress and should be completed by 2018.
India will soon extend electronic-visa facility to all ASEAN countries, Modi said.
Terming science, technology and innovation as a vital pillar of India-ASEAN cooperation and economic partnership, he said, “We will enlarge the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from the current USD one million to USD 5 million.”
India intends to set up an ASEAN-India Innovation Platform to facilitate commercialisation of low cost technologies, technology transfer and collaborative Research and Development projects, he said.
ASEAN grouping includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We also propose to commit a Line of Credit of USD 1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN,” the Prime Minister said.
ASEAN remains the largest investment partner – both for inward and outward flows, Modi said.
“Much of the potential for economic partnership remains untapped. I am confident that our trade and investment will expand, as our economies grow.
“We can also draw confidence from the progress in our framework of cooperation. The entry into force of our Trade in Services and Investment Agreements in July 2015 is a major step forward,” he added.
Modi said ASEAN-India look forward to progress in negotiations for a balanced and ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that covers goods and services as well as investments.
India is the sixth largest trade partner for ASEAN.
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 its imports from the grouping were USD 44.71 billion.
Noting that ASEAN’s economy continues to forge ahead with dynamism and energy, Modi said: “I have no doubt that we will reinforce prosperity for our 1.9 billion people.
“I am pleased that after a temporary decline, our trade increased to about 76.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2014-15; and, so has investment in both directions.”
With the growth rate touching 7.5 per cent, India is the fastest growing major economy in the world, he said.
“Our inflation is down as also our fiscal and external deficits. And, business and international confidence has increased sharply. The scale of transformation in India is vast; so, the size of economic opportunities in India are huge,” the Prime Minister said.
Emphasising that India will continue with reforms with speed and boldness, Modi said, “..we now have environment that is open and welcoming. This is reflected in the sharp jump in India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business.
Modi said ASEAN has been providing both inspiration and leadership for regional cooperation and integration.
“And, from India’s perspective, ASEAN values and leadership will remain central to integration across Asia and Pacific,” he said.
“I saw the strength of our relationship and the potential of our partnership; and, even more important, the commitment and confidence that you showed for the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership,” Modi said, adding “in this difficult moment, India and ASEAN are two bright spots of optimism.
India-ASEAN’s cooperative project in space to be located in Vietnam, he said, adding the project is making concrete progress. I assure you of its early completion.”
“India also offers ASEAN our indigenously developed GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation or GAGAN services, which provides advanced navigation and location assistance and information facilities,” he said.
He also proposed to cooperate in sustainable development of Ocean or Blue Economy.
“This will be an increasingly important driver of our future economy, and a source of food security, medicines and clean energy. India has entered into collaboration with a number of ocean states,” he said.
On research and innovation efforts, Modi said the efforts in the area must cover a range of common challenges like massive urbanisation and mega cities, skills for the future, food security, water and affordable healthcare.
Calling climate change an issue of global concern, the Prime Minister said, “India has ambitious clean energy plans: 175 GW of additional capacity of renewable energy by 2022; and, 40 per cent of energy through non-fossil fuel by 2030.
“We would also be happy to offer over 100 training slots in renewable energy in our institutions.
“I have also proposed an international solar alliance of 122 solar-rich countries, which French President (Francois) Hollande and I will launch in Paris on November 30. We look forward to your participation in the launch and the alliance,” he said.
Modi said he deeply valued collective efforts to revive the cultural pillar of ASEAN-India relations.
“An international conference on ASEAN-India Cultural Links was held in New Delhi in July. We are proposing to open an ASEAN Studies Centre in our North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, which is our Gateway to the East,” he said.
Earlier, loud cheers greeted Modi at the Renaissance Hotel. There are about 2.4 million people of Indian origin in Malaysia, constituting eight per cent of the country’s population.