A Celebratory Summit: India-ASEAN Ties On Growth Trajectory
New Delhi: Its being called a commemorative summit, but it's more of a celebratory gathering. India and the 10-member ASEAN - its neighbours in the southeast - are set to take their ties to a strategic level at a two-day summit beginning a relationship that has been on a growth trajectory for the past 20 years and has witnessed "really no problem areas".
"India-ASEAN relations has seen good growth.. The commemorative summit will see India and ASEAN take their relationship to a higher level," said a senior Indian official.
"What is nice about the relationship is that there really have been no problem areas," the official told IANS.
The ASEAN region is a group of 10 nations - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - that is not only of the growth areas of a world hit by economic slowdown but is also the focus of the much talked about .U.S strategic "pivot" to Asia.
Heads of state and government of these countries are in Delhi for the summit.
India became a sectoral dialogue partner of the grouping in 1992 and was elevated to full dialogue partner in 1995 in recognition of the country's rising stature and economic potential. Since 2002, the two sides have been holding annual summits.
ASEAN Economic Minister Chair and Cambodia Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said in Guwahati that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India are set to elevate their ties to a strategic partnership.
The two sides are also set to formally declare conclusion of negotiations for their ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) to liberalise trade in services and investments at the New Delhi summit.
India and ASEAN, which already have a FTA in goods in place, have also targeted a two-way trade of $100 billion by 2015. Currently, trade between India and ASEAN is at $80 billion.
"India-ASEAN trade has witnessed 22 percent growth every year, and last year it saw 37 percent growth, at a time when the rest of the world was grappling with an economic slowdown," the official added.
India and ASEAN commerce officials have been busy working out the details of the FTA in services and investments. A team from the Indian commerce ministry was in Jakarta last week to work out the details, the official said.
The FTA in services and investments will have to be ratified by all the individual countries for it to be set in motion.
India and Asean are also looking at closer cooperation in declaring the region drug-free by 2015. "Asean has declared becoming drug-free by 2015 as its objective. India has supported this, and this is a common area," the official added.
Agriculture and tourism are other major areas the two sides are looking at to boost cooperation.
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