New Delhi (ANTARA News) - Combined population of nearly 2 billion of the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) and India could make southern Asian region a potential economic grouping.
Trade between the ten member country ASEAN and India was recorded at US$58.4 billion in 2016, but the trade value is no near its real potential yet, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said.
"ASEAN and India could still expand mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and investment. Economic integration would benefit all," Retno said in Jakarta addressing the 5th meeting of the ASEAN-India Thinking Institute earlier this month.
Indian direct investment in ASEAN has reached US$1.05 billion necessitating more intensive communications between the two economic powers in this region.
With a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reaching US$25 billion ASEAN and India could become a driving engine for the world economic development, Retno said.
"We have to grab the opportunity of the momentum of global economic recovery," she said.
Meanwhile Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said strategic relations between India and ASEAN could be promoted through three aspects - trade, connectivity and cultures.
Sushma said increase in connectivity becomes important for more intensive regional relations to boost mutually beneficial economic development.
He said he hopes more dialogs could be held between business players and traders of ASEAN and India to promote relations and investment cooperation.
"We hope to be able to cooperate with ASEAN in developing connectivity," he said.
Sushma said ASEAN and India could encourage development of physical and digital connectivity and share information for regional integration as an important factor to push Indian and Asean economic growth.
The two foreign ministers gave emphasis on the importance of dialogs and connectivity between ASEAN and India.
The ASEAN secretariat said ASEAN and India have continued to strengthen economic cooperation in various sectors.
In the Plan of Action (POA) of ASEAN-India 2016-2020, there is program to promote trade and investment, expanding exchange of services and agreement on investment to facilitate economic integration.
Study on obstacles and barriers is carried out in trade agreement both tariffs and non tariff to increase the utilization of Free Trade Area.
Both sides would promote and facilitate foreign investment inflows to ASEAN and India through related agencies or local entrepreneurs.
India and ASEAN also agree to strengthen coordination related to issues in G-20 summit meetings including support for continued participation of ASEAN in chairmanship in G-20 summit meeting in the future.
Both Retno and Sushma hope that connectivity between ASEAN and India would grow to follow the expanding cooperation between the two sides.
India as the 6th largest trading partner and the 7th largest investment partner for ASEAN should open wider connectivity in ASEAN countries, ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi said.
Retno said strengthening cooperation in connectivity should continue to be a priority for ASEAN and India.
Therefore, cooperation to promote connectivity through community capacity building and physical development of infrastructure to link South Asia and Southeast Asia is included in the Plan of Action of ASEAN-India.
Construction of a number of access roads needs to be carried out as said in the Plan of Action including highways connecting three countries - India-Myanmar- Thailand to be connected with the Laos-Cambodia highway, and new road connecting India -Myanmar-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia by encouraging participation of the private sector in building access road and railways to facilitate logistics.
Also included in the POA is development of waterways by inviting the private sector to build logistic and passenger ports to create a more efficient transport system.
In the POA of ASEAN-India 2016-2020, it is said that maritime cooperation is to promote security and safety, freedom of navigation. The program is launched through the ASEAN related mechanism such as ASEAN-India Framework, EAS, ARF, ADMM-Plus, and ASEAN Maritime Forum.
Retno said stronger cooperation is needed in the maritime sector to face criminality in the sea including illegal fishing, unregulated and unreported fishing, human smuggling , piracy , etc.
The POA of ASEAN-India 2016-2020 also covers infrastructure development . Therefore, ASEAN-India need to share knowledge, technology and experience in infrastructure development.
All cooperation programs, the implementations of which are regulated in the POA of ASEAN-India 2016-2020, are expected to contribute to strengthening regional architecture, secured, strong and inclusive in line with international law .
In the summit meeting of ASEAN-India 2018 in New Delhi, ASEAN and Indian leaders will adopt Delhi Declaration as a realization of the cooperation programs.
Director General of ASEAN Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry Jose Tavares said here India will provide US$1 billion to finance the construction of connectivity in a number of development sector.
ASEAN has played the role of creating stability and peace in Southeast Asia and certainly it has positive impact on economic development in this region.
Indonesia, southeast Asians largest economy, also hopes to gain from expanded regional cooperation such as in investment, tourism and digital technology .
Source: ANTARA News