Manmohan expacts 1 mln tourist from Asean by 2010

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Singapore, Nov 21 (UNI) Describing India's relation with Asean countries as the pillar of its 'Look East' policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today proposed to achieve a target of one million tourist arrivals from Asean to India by the year 2010 Speaking at the 6th India-Asean Summit Dr Singh said more than two million tourist from India are expected to travel to Asean holiday destinations this year and the number of tourist from Asean countries to India has gone up to 280,000.

However, Dr Singh said a huge scope for expansion still exists and proposed a target of one million tourist arrivals from Asean to India by the year 2010.

Tourist arrivals in India rose 12.6 per cent in October from a year earlier, boosting foreign exchange earnings from the sector by 28.7 per cent to 764.49 million dollars.

The number of tourists increased to 440,715 in October compared with 391,399 visitors in the same month last year.

Tourist arrivals in 10 months starting January totalled 3.90 million against 3.46 million in the same period last year, up 12.4 per cent.

Dr Singh emphasised that India not only looked for greater economic integration, but also looked to make substantial strides on people-to-people contacts. Stating that much progress has been achieved in the key area of air connectivity, Dr Singh said India was now keen to join Open Skies regime amongst the Asean countries, when it is finalised.

''Today, there are over 215 direct and indirect flights every week between India and Singapore, 115 flights with Thailand and 50 with Malaysia. But we seek much more,'' Dr Singh said.

He also announced one million dollar for the India-ASEAN Science and Technology Fund to be used to encourage collaborative research and development and technology development to harness knowledge for the creation of wealth.

He also proposed India-ASEAN Working Group dealing with health.

The focus of the group will be on providing basic drugs at low cost through joint production of medical formulations. Next it could be on to develop a framework for cooperation in traditional medicine systems, which are popular in ASEAN countries.

On climate change, he said that it is a major challenge for developing countries. He suggested setting up of a network on climate change and asked ASEAN countries to share expertise and submit recommendations for common positions on this critical issue.

Environmental groups are stepping up the pressure on Asian nations to do more to fight global climate change and Dr Singh announced India's initiative by setting up of an India-ASEAN Green Fund for which India will provide five million dollars for pilot project to promote adaption and mitigation technologies.

''Once the fund is established I invite other countries to make contributions as well,'' Dr Singh said.

ASEAN member Indonesia would be hosting a crucial United Nations climate change conference next month in Bali.

Delegates to the Bali conference will try to thrash out a new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, after the Nobel-winning UN climate panel warned that the impact of global warming could be 'abrupt or irreversible.' Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had earlier said he hoped this week's ASEAN and East Asia summits would build momentum toward the Bali meeting.

UNI

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