Seoul (South Korea), Sept 17: India today called for greater economic cooperation with fellow East Asian countries in pursuit of a "truely integrated Asian economy".
Addressing a meeting at the Institute of of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee underlined the need to understand the "gainful opportunity" offered by the "globalized world".
"An Asian Economic Community that is open, transparent and inclusive, and provides a platform to create ever widening economic opportunities, is a better for Asia and for the world, than a narrower or restrictive definition of Asian economic integration," said Mukherjee during his first visit to South Korea after assuming charge of the External Affairs Ministry.
He underscored the point that regional groupings like ASEAN and others were pursuing separate goals, and this would not serve the larger economic interests of all Asian nations.
Without doubting the relevance of ASEAN as the "driving seat" and "nucleas" of economic integrative process, Mukherjee however, questioned whether such a grouping will "serve regional interests, Korean interests" if it "exclude(s) others whose development is integral to the region as a whole".
"We see great value in pursuing economic cooperation with with fellow East Asians in the pursuit of a truly integrated Asian economy that will draw on the economic potential of India and China, the technology and management expertise of Korea and Japan and the dynamism of ASEAN," underscored the External Affairs Minister.
Elaborating furthur on the need to have an Asian Economic Community, Mukherjee said a community comprising "half of the world's population would be larger than the EU in terms of output, having trade higher than NAFTA and foreign exchange reserves greater than those of the EU and the NAFTA put together".
"The vision of Asian economic integration by coalescing the FTAs among the member Asian countries into Asian RTA is teh pivotal step towards the integration of Asia into common unit",said Mukherjee who is on a two day visit to South Korea to discuss wide range of issues, including promoting India's "Look East Policy" in a big way.
"The essential philosophy of our "Look East Policy" is that India must find its destiny by linking itself more and more with its Asian Partners and the rest of the world...India's future and our best economic interests are served by greater integration with East Asia," underlined Mukherjee.
India started engaging East Asia soon after launching it New Economic Policy in 1991.
It became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992India to become a full dialogue partner of ASEAN during the fifth ASEAN summit in Bangkok in 1995 and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996.
The country entered into an agreement with Thailand for a free trade area (FTA). This was followed with a similar agreement with Singapore in a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)
Besides that sub-regional cooperation has accelerated too. The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and the BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) are indicators to this effect.
The deepening of ties is beginning to show in the intra-country trade figures.
India's trade with ASEAN countries rose from 9.7 thousand million dollars in 2002-2003 to more than 30.64 billion dollars in 2006-07
With deepening ties with East Asian and South East Asia nations India now wants to engage them on a different plane.
This has "domestic roots" as Pranab Mukherjee said in his address to a distiguished gathering in Seoul and that domestic root is "vibrant democracy" and "ascending trajectory" of economic growth which is to "achieve 10% of sustainable growth in coming years".