Enhancing connectivity with ASEAN a major priority for India: PM Modi at virtual summit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 12

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said India’s major priority with the 10-nation ASEAN grouping is to enhance all kinds of connectivity, including in social, digital and financial spheres.

“We believe a cohesive and responsive ASEAN is needed for security and growth for all in the region,’’ he said in his remarks at a virtual summit between India and the ASEAN.

The Prime Minister also reiterated India’s offer of $ 1 billion line of credit to support ASEAN connectivity.

“Enhancing every type of connectivity between India and ASEAN—physical, economic, social, digital, financial, maritime—is a major priority for us. In the last few years, we have come close to all these areas,’’ observed the PM while referring to the many similarities between India’s ‘Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative’ and ASEAN’s ‘Outlook on Indo Pacific’.

The interaction, however, took place against the development of the ASEAN group planning to ink a regional free trade agreement with five countries on Sunday without waiting for India. While setting up the India-ASEAN summit, New Delhi had suggested that the two sides could commence negotiations. However the reaction from ASEAN was lukewarm.

PM Modi tackled this irritant in the relationship by calling for an early review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA).

Though the summit took place amidst China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea and along the LAC, ASEAN members are split over categorising Beijing as an adversary.

Ties between India and ASEAN have been on an upswing in the last few years, with focus being on ramping up cooperation in the areas of trade and investment as well as security and defence.

The ASEAN leaders spoke of India as a long-term friend and welcomed its support to ASEAN centrality. India’s capacity building initiatives, including the PhD Fellowship Programme at IITs and setting up of Centres for Excellence in Software Development and Training in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries were appreciated.

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