New Delhi, September 12: India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday adopted the plan of action for 2021-25 that envisages greater cooperation in areas ranging from trade to maritime security and counter-terrorism.
The plan of action will help the two sides to work towards the ASEAN 2025 vision for an economically integrated and rules-based grouping that narrows the development gap and enhances connectivity. Both sides will also cooperate on common challenges and enhance coordination at international forums.
The virtual ASEAN-India ministerial meeting, co-chaired by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai, adopted the plan of action. The meeting, which was joined by the foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN states, also discussed ways to strengthen cooperation to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and witnessed an exchange of views on regional and international developments.
The meeting reviewed the ASEAN-India strategic partnership in several areas, including maritime cooperation, connectivity and people-to-people contacts. It reviewed preparations for the upcoming ASEAN-India Summit and progress in implementing key decisions made at the last summit in Bangkok in November 2019.
Under the new plan of action, the two sides will further strengthen the East Asia Summit “as a premier leaders-led forum for dialogue and cooperation on broad strategic, political and economic issues… with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region”.
The plan envisages India’s active participation and co-chairing of joint exercises and activities, and strengthening of practical defence cooperation to address challenges in maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, and cyber-security.
The two sides will also promote maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded commerce, the non-use of force, and the resolution of disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In the field of economic cooperation, the two sides will continue efforts to make the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) more user-friendly and trade facilitative by initiating a review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement and work towards ratification of the ASEAN-India Investment Agreement to facilitate further economic integration.
In the realm of connectivity, the two sides will work closely to promote physical connectivity by “completing the missing links between South and Southeast Asia, including, but not limited to, expediting the completion of relevant sections of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and supporting steps to build an economic corridor along it and its extension to Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam”. They will also encourage private sector participation in developing roads and railways and logistics networks.
Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan also participated in a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Saturday under the chairmanship of Vietnam. The ministers exchanged views on international and regional issues. Muraleedharan presented India’s perspectives on the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, threat of terrorism, and cooperation for a collective response to Covid-19. (Courtesy: HT)