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India-Asean cooperation a major stabilising factor in world facing challenges: EAM

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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that India and the Asean must work towards deepening the four-decade old partnership and focus more on trade and investment, connectivity, defence and security and people to people exchanges.

In a series of tweets on the first Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held here, he said that India-Asean cooperation is a major stabilising factor in a world still impacted by Covid and the new challenges of food and energy security as a result of the Ukraine conflict. He also reiterated India’s backing of Asean centrality in the Indo Pacific.

His tweets went:

“Just completed a warm and productive Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi.

“As we enter the fourth decade of our partnership, we must work towards deepening,broadening and upgrading it.

“A greater focus on trade and investment growth,physical and digital connectivity,defence and security,climate action and green growth and more people to people exchanges constitute the new agenda.

“As the world recovers from the Covid pandemic and addresses new challenges of energy, food and fertilizer security, India-ASEAN cooperation is a major stabilizing factor.

“India deeply values ASEAN centrality to the Indo-Pacific. The synergy between Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific grows steadily

“The last three decades have seen a transformation in the regional architecture and beyond, driven by our achievements. We are resolved that the coming ones should build on that foundation.”

Earlier, in his welcome address, he said the ties between India and the 10 member Asean have withstood the test of time and grown stronger with each passing decade and also pushed for greater connectivity between the two sides to “promote decentralised globalisation and reliable supply chains”.

The EAM, who co-chaired the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting along with Singapore FM Vivian Balakrishnan, noted that even though the Covid pandemic has not fully abated the Ukraine conflict and its knock on effects are impacting food and energy security, as well as fertilizer and commodities prices, and logistics and supply chain disruptions around the world.

“ASEAN has always stood tall as a beacon of regionalism, multilateralism and globalization. It has successfully carved out a niche for itself in the region and provided the foundation for the evolving strategic and economic architecture in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

“ASEAN’s role today is perhaps more important than ever before given the geopolitical challenges and uncertainties that the world faces.”

The EAM reiterated India’s backing for a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN, one whose centrality in the Indo-Pacific is fully recognised.

“The strong convergence of the AOIP (Asean Outlook on the Indo Pacific) and the IPOI (India’s Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative) is a testimony to our shared Vision for the region,” he stressed.

“ASEAN-India ties, anchored in history and nurtured by common ethos, have withstood the test of time and indeed, grown stronger with each passing decade. Our Sectoral Partnership of 1992 matured into a Summit level Partnership in 2002 and further evolved into a Strategic Partnership in 2012.

“As we enter the fourth decade of our relationship, our ties too must respond to the world that we confront. A better connected India and ASEAN would be well positioned to promote decentralized globalization and resilient and reliable supply chains that is so needed by the international community,” Jaishankar said.

“Under the current global uncertainties, as we review our journey of the last 30 years and chart our path for the coming decades, it is important that we identify a new set of priorities while ensuring the early realization of our ongoing initiatives,” he added.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in his address as co-chair of the event, said the current geopolitical developments, like the sharpening superpower rivalry between the US and China and the Ukraine conflict and its implications, if left unchecked can threaten the whole system of peace and stability in the region.

The Singapore Foreign Minister, who is country coordinator for India in ASEAN, also thanked India for the help during the Covid pandemic.

Referring to the public health impact of Covid 19, he said the last two and half years have been the most challenging for the countries in the Asean.

“Asean and India mutually supported one another and I think each of us can recount incidents and episodes when India has stood up to help us and we also in our own small way have been able to reciprocate.”

The Singapore FM voiced confidence that India and Asean will emerge even stronger after this Covid episode.

Referring to the geopolitical developments, he said: “The world has also changed quite rapidly in the last few months and I am of course referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which in our view has upended the international system of rules, norms and international law, which we all depend on and operate on the basis of.”

“The sharpening super power rivalry between the US and China has direct implications on all of us in Asia.

“So these developments if unchecked can threaten the whole system of peace and stability which we have depended on for the basis of our growth, development, prosperity over many decades,” he said, and termed the convening of the first Asean-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting very timely.

He said the meeting would help enhance the links between the two regions and build resilience to tackle the ongoing and future challenges.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The year 2022 has been designated as ASEAN-India Friendship Year.

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