Flashback 2015: 'Act East' policy cements India's ties with ASEAN

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Bangkok, Dec 26: India's 'Act East' policy for cementing ties with the 10-member ASEAN bloc received a fillip in 2015 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending two key regional meetings and visiting Malaysia and Singapore, deepening bilateral ties.

Maritime security, defence, trade, investments, science and technology were among the key areas which got a boost with the Prime Minister's visit to the two nations, which have a sizeable population of ethnic and expatriate Indians.

ASEAN

Modi called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) an economic powerhouse and praised the bloc's growth and stability.

The Prime Minister attended two high-profile meetings, the ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit (EAS) in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in November.

In the ASEAN-India Summit, Modi called for enhancing cooperation with the bloc 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. I

ndia announced that it will soon extend electronic-visa facility to all ASEAN countries - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Modi witnessed the signing of the historic ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) declaration, an EU-style regional economic bloc which aims to integrate Southeast Asia's diverse economies.

The AEC envisages a single market with a free flow of goods, capital and skilled labour across borders in the highly competitive economic region, which has a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.4 trillion.

In Malaysia, which has been called the core of the government's 'Act East Policy', the Prime Minister held talks with his counterpart Najib Razak and the two leaders agreed to deepen cooperation in security and defence sectors and vowed to combat terror.

The two nations decided to continue sharing of information and best practices to address the challenges posed by terrorism and other "traditional and non-traditional threats".

India signed two MoUs with Malaysia on Cooperation on Cyber Security and Cooperation in Project Delivery and an agreement on Cultural Exchange Programme for 2015-2020.

Bilateral ties with Singapore also got a boost this year as India signed ten pacts, including a joint declaration on elevating ties to a strategic partnership, besides agreements for enhanced defence cooperation and in areas like cyber security, shipping and civil aviation.

The year also saw underworld don Chhota Rajan, who was on the run for the past 27 years, being deported to India from Indonesia on November 6 for facing trial in over 70 cases of murder, extortion and drug smuggling against him in Delhi and Mumbai.

One of India's most wanted criminals, the 55-year-old gangster, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, was deported to New Delhi after his arrest in Bali on October 25. The gangster had flown to Bali from Australia where he had been hiding for several years.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited Indonesia where he emphasised that the time is ripe for the two countries to work together in international forums like the WTO and the UN and look to bring more equity into the international order.

In other major developments in the region in 2015, Singapore lost its founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who dominated the country's political scene for over half a century and transformed the tiny former British colony into a thriving global trade and finance powerhouse.

91-year-old Lee, the city-state's Prime Minister for 31 years, who had been under intensive care for pneumonia, died on March 23.

Myanmar saw a historic shift in power from the army with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party winning a parliamentary majority on November 13 that will allow it to elect a president and form a government next year.

Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College alumni, Suu Kyi's party secured a landslide election victory, propelling the pro-democracy movement to power after a 25-year struggle against authoritarian rule.

In August, Thailand witnessed one of the deadliest terror attacks when 20 people, mostly Chinese tourists were killed and over 120 injured, in a powerful bomb blast inside a popular Lord Brahma temple 'Erawan Brahma Shrine' in a crowded area of capital Bangkok.

PTI

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