Toast to the summits

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday consented to attend the 8th Asean-India Summit, 5th East Asia Summit, 2nd Asean-Russia Summit, Asean-Australia Summit, Asean-New Zealand Commemorative Summit and the Closing Ceremony of the 17th Asean Summit at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam.

In the morning, His Majesty attended the 8th Asean-India Summit together with other Asean leaders and the Prime Minister of India, Mr Manmohan Singh. His Majesty, the other heads of state and Premier Manmohan exchanged views on Asean-India cooperation.

During the meeting, His Majesty said India remains an important strategic partner for Asean. With the size of its economy, there is great potential for Asean to increase its collaboration with India.

His Majesty expressed his pleasure at the progress achieved so far on the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement, and looked forward to the early conclusion of negotiations on the Services and Investment Agreement.

His Majesty also welcomes India's plan for the Asean-India Business Summit early next year which would open up more opportunities for businesses.

His Majesty also appreciates India's expressed interest to work with Asean on enhancing intra-regional links. India's 'Look East Policy' and vision to create an 'Arc of Advantage' for the region will fit in very well with Asean's Master Plan on Connectivity and Asean's own objective of having the Asean-India Air Transport and Open Skies Agreement. His Majesty said that he looked forward to working closely with India on this.

His Majesty also sees India as an important partner in addressing regional security challenges. In this, His Majesty suggested initiating practical activities under the framework of the Asean-India Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism, especially in capacity building and training.

His Majesty also expressed his pleasure at the continued efforts to strengthen cooperation in areas such as ICT, science and technology, climate change and the environment.

His Majesty also said that he looked forward to the convening of the Asean-India roundtable and the establishment of the Asean-India Eminent Persons' Group in coming up with ideas to strengthen Asean-India relations and cooperation, particularly in building up to the Commemorative Summit in 2012.

Later in the morning, His Majesty consented to attend the 5th East Asia Summit. Also present were the non- Asean leaders of the EAS countries (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were also present at the close of the meeting as guests of the chairman.

In his titah, His Majesty said that the East Asia Summit (EAS) remains a good forum to discuss strategic matters concerning the region and explore ways in which countries can address common concerns.

His Majesty said Brunei values very much the activities that have been taken in the EAS.

His Majesty said that he was especially appreciative of EAS energy cooperation, which included promoting energy efficiency, conservation and clean technologies. His Majesty said he looked forward to Brunei Darussalam hosting the 5th Energy Minister's Meeting next year.

His Majesty also said that Brunei views the protection of the environment and the sustainable use and management of natural resources as essential to our regions' long-term economic growth and social development. This is another area where the EAS can play a positive role in the global debate on climate change.

His Majesty also said Brunei is keen on cooperation in the field of education and as such support the convening of the first Education Ministers' Meeting.

In the afternoon, the Sultan and the other East Asian Summit leaders joined a courtesy call to Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet at the National Convention Center.

Also in the afternoon, His Majesty consented to attend the 2nd Asean-Russia Summit with other Asean leaders and Russian President Medvedev, to exchange views on Asean-Russia cooperation.

His Majesty sees Russia as a very important partner for Asean and welcomed Russia's inclusion in the EAS, its participation in the Asean-Defence Minister's Meeting Plus Mechanism (ADMM-Plus), and the Asia-Europe Meeting.

His Majesty was also pleased with efforts made in implementing areas of cooperation envisioned during the first Asean-Russia Summit in 2005. Asean and Russia cooperation is moving ahead on security matters, especially on countering terrorism and combating transnational crime. Both regions have increased economic cooperation, and the Asean -Russia Business Forum would present greater opportunities for the business sector to establish closer ties.

On energy cooperation, His Majesty said Russia's interest to pursue activities with Asean on energy security and the peaceful use of nuclear energy is very much appreciated. His Majesty supports the work in developing the Asean-Russia Energy Cooperation Work Programme for 2010-2015.

His Majesty also expressed his happiness with developments on Asean-Russia Socio-Cultural Cooperation. The launch of the Asean Centre in Moscow in June represents a major achievement to raise awareness on Asean-Russia cooperation and culture.

Looking ahead, His Majesty said that he would like to see more interaction among people of both regions, including the youth, students, academics and entrepreneurs. People-to-people linkages remain a fundamental building block for Asean-Russia relations.

Later in the afternoon, His Majesty consented to attend the Asean-Australia Summit where Asean heads and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard exchanged views on cooperation.

His Majesty said Asean and Australia have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership over the years. Regular contacts in the areas of diplomacy, trade, investment, social linkages and Australia's long standing development assistance, have created an enduring sense of friendship.

His Majesty said Australia is an important trading partner to Asean and he is pleased that officials are focusing on increasing the visibility of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area.

His Majesty also expressed his appreciation to Australia on its active contribution in combating terrorism and transnational crime. He also applauded Australia's active role in promoting inter-faith dialogue, and thanks Australia for the many opportunities that Australia has given to Asean students who have also gained work experience there. In the same spirit, His Majesty urges Australians to study in Asean institutions.

Also later in the afternoon, at the Asean-New Zealand Commemorative Summit with Premier John Key, His Majesty noted New Zealand as a long standing partner to Asean and both have enjoyed cooperation in many areas ranging from socio-cultural linkages to security collaboration.

His Majesty welcomed the announcement of New Zealand's four flagship initiatives, the entry into force of the Asean-Australia-NZ Free Trade Area, and the elevation of Asean-New Zealand partnership into a comprehensive one with the adoption of the Joint Declaration for Comprehensive Partnership and its Plan of Action for the next five years.

His Majesty further said that of the flagship initiatives, the Young Business Leaders Exchange Programme, and the Agricultural Diplomacy Programme, are very much of interest to Brunei Darussalam. The Agricultural Diplomacy Programme in particular would help Brunei achieve the aim of ensuring food security and sustainable production.

His Majesty is also happy to see that cooperation in the area of biodiversity conservation, natural resources management and sustainable forest management is included in the Joint Declaration for Comprehensive Partnership Plan of Action.

Accompanying His Majesty in the Summit meetings were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister's Office, and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other senior officials.

Later, His Majesty joined other Asean leaders to attend the Closing Ceremony of the 17th Asean Summit at the National Convention Centre, presided by Vietnam Premier Nguyen Tan Dung. The ceremony also saw a speech by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the next chairman and host of the the 18th Asean Summit.

His Majesty left Hanoi last night. Before departing, a Doa Selamat was read by State Mufti Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Dr Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned.

Present to bid farewell were Minister of Science and Technology of Vietnam Mr Hoang Van Phong and Deputy Head of State Protocol Mr Cao Tran Quoc Hai.

Also present were Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Vietnam Dato Paduka Haji Mahadi bin Haji Wasli and embassy officials. - Borneo Bulletin (31st October 2010)