There are three “promising areas of mutually beneficial collaboration” between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, said last week.
Speaking at a summit in New Delhi, which included the leaders of all 10 ASEAN members, Prime Minister Lee outlined the key mutual opportunities for India and ASEAN.
Redoubling trade and investment efforts between India and ASEAN, including concluding a “high quality” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), was the first area identified by the Prime Minister.
The RCEP is a free trade deal that brings together ASEAN, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. It will cover almost half the world’s population if successful.
Prime Minister Lee has said that Singapore will do all it can to push negotiations on the RCEP forward as ASEAN Chair in 2018.
According to Prime Minister Lee, the RCEP was about more than just economics or trade; it was also about the aspects of bilateral cooperation, friendship and strategic calculation.
The second area where India and ASEAN could make gains is enhancing greater land, air and maritime connectivity – a comment that should interest carriers in the region.
Finally, India and ASEAN should look for new synergies, such as in the area of Smart Cities, Prime Minister Lee said.
The summit, hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was held to celebrate 25 years of formal relations between India and ASEAN.
Under the theme “Shared Values, Common Destiny”, the leaders discussed ASEAN-India cooperation, regional and international issues, and ways to deepen the relationship. Harking back to the long history between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Modi noted that the friendship had been nurtured by a cultural connection, and outlined ASEAN-India cooperation in the maritime domain as “one of the key focus areas of growth and development of the Indo-Pacific region.”
Prior to attending the summit, the ASEAN leaders also attended India’s 69th Republic Day grand parade as chief guests – a showcase of India’s fast growing strategic ties with ASEAN.