India ready for a role in ASEAN security: PM

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Oct 10: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday declared India's intention to participate in ASEAN security, signifying the depth of its Asian outreach.

"We would be happy to respond to the ASEAN request to develop the security dimensions of India's Look East Policy to strengthen the ASEAN Political Security Community Blueprint 2015," the prime minister said at the concluding session of the 11th India-ASEAN Summit here.

"In this context, we look forward to the workshop being hosted by Brunei Darussalam next month," he said, stressing the need for a shared and secure Asian neighbourhood.

The Prime minister also pledged India's support to an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community in 2015.

"ASEAN countries that they have led the way in cooperation and integration, not only among themselves, but also in the broader region. For India, it is an article of faith of our Look-East policy that ASEAN must remain central to the future evolution of regional mechanisms, which must be open and inclusive. We share your vision and aspirations for the region and we applaud your march towards an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015," said the prime minister at the opening of the 11th India-ASEAN Summit here.

The PM also pledged India's support to an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

All countries, he said, have equal stakes in the security and prosperity of the "shared Asian neighbourhood". The scope of India's engagement with East and Southeast Asia has grown steadily in the last two decades.

"We would be happy to respond to the ASEAN request to develop the security dimensions of India's Look East Policy to strengthen the ASEAN Political Security Community Blueprint 2015. In this context, we look forward to the workshop being hosted by Brunei next month."

The prime minister also emphasized the growing strategic content in India-ASEAN relations to respond to the common security challenges, which supplemented India's deepening security cooperation with ASEAN countries bilaterally.

"I am pleased that India and ASEAN have identified eight focus areas for cooperation on transnational crime and that we are in the process of formulating a work plan to combat international terrorism," he said.

"We seek to promote not only mutually beneficial bilateral relations, but also to work institutionally with regional partners and foster a climate that is conducive to stability, security and economic development in our region."

The prime minister told the gathering that over two decades, India and ASEAN have established a comprehensive agenda of cooperation and a wide-ranging framework to pursue it. The partnership, which has been elevated to a strategic level, is on the threshold of the third decade of engagement.

And befitting the occasion, he announced that India will soon set up a separate Mission to the ASEAN in Jakarta with a full time resident ambassador. "I hope we will have your full support and cooperation in this endeavour."

India was also ready for the signature of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement on Services and Investment by the end of this year and its early implementation, complimenting the agreement on goods, he said.

He welcomed efforts by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to revitalize the ASEAN-India Business Council and to set up an ASEAN-India Trade and Investment Centre. These measures will contribute to stronger trade and investment flows between India and the ASEAN.

India-ASEAN trade stood at $76 billion last year and a target of $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2022 has been set.

The prime minister also emphasized the growing strategic content in India-ASEAN relations to respond to the common security challenges, which supplemented India's deepening security cooperation with ASEAN countries bilaterally.

"I am pleased that India and ASEAN have identified eight focus areas for cooperation on transnational crime and that we are in the process of formulating a work plan to combat international terrorism," he said.

Connectivity is a strategic priority, he said, adding the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to be completed by 2016 could be extended to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, its further linkage with ports in ASEAN countries and its integration with models like Special Economic Zones.

"This would call for innovative financial and institutional mechanisms. I hope our ministers and officials can discuss these ideas further," he said.

IANS

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