Brunei lauds India’s intention to set up Asean-India Trade & Investment Centre
Aziz Idris

AS A commitment to increase trade and investment cooperation that India seeks to have with Asean, New Delhi has decided to open a separate mission in June for the 10-nation grouping that is billed as the growth centre of Asia.

This was among the main highlights made by the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh at the 11th Asean-India Summit yesterday which was chaired by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Prior to the statement, His Majesty delivered a statement whereby he lauded India’s intention to set up the Asean-India Trade and Investment Centre and noted that after 20 years of cooperation across a broad range of areas, India is one of Asean’s most valuable strategic partners.

His Majesty emphasised that all member states have benefited from India’s expertise and innovation.

At the same time India’s Look East policy has complemented Asean’s community building efforts especially as we approach 2015.

India is also keen to have the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed at the earliest so that it can tap into the region’s market.

According to the Prime Minister, trade between Asean and India has increased by 37 per cent in 2012 to reach nearly $80 billion, surpassing the target of $70 billion. Once the FTA is in place, the two-way trade is expected to touch the $100 billion mark by 2015.

His Majesty added that this is a reflection of the confidence Asean member states have in strengthening the cooperation with India to achieve growth especially during these times of economic uncertainties.

“I therefore welcome the signing of the Trade in Services and Investment Agreement this year, as well as effort to make it easier for business people to trade and invest in the region and hoped it would help in reaching our target,” said the Monarch.

His Majesty then elaborated another initiative that has directly benefited the people, which is the work on connectivity, such as the Trilateral Highway projects and last year’s commemorative activities such as the Car Rally and the Sudarshini expedition, which reflect how closely linked Asean is with India.

In this regard, the Monarch welcomed the inaugural meeting between the Asean and Indian officials earlier this year and hoped it will continue efforts to bring the people closer together and promote overall growth in our region.

The Prime Minister agreed with His Majesty on connectivity whereby he said it is a “strategic priority” in the relation between Asean and India.

“We are nearing completion of the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo sector of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. Repairs to 71 bridges on this road and work on upgrading a 120-km sector between Kalewa and Yargyi are to begin soon. We will work closely with Thailand and Myanmar to ensure that this project is completed by 2016.

“It would be useful to look at the extension of this highway to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, its further linkage with ports in Asean countries and its integration with models like Special Economic Zones.

“This would call for innovative financial and institutional mechanisms. I hope our ministers and officials can discuss these ideas further,” said the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, on regional security, His Majesty suggested that Asean-India should deepen work together under the joint declaration to combat international terrorism adding that issues on cybercrime and maritime security should also be on the agenda.

“For us in Asean, it is essential that we work with India in addressing issue such as terrorism, cybercrime and maritime security. So my thanks to you and your government Prime Minister, for your initiative in this very important aspect of cooperation,” said His Majesty.

The Prime Minister of India was delighted to note that many of the cooperative projects with the Asean under the Plan of Action for 2010 to 2015 are coming to fruition.

The project to establish a Satellite Tracking and Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam and the upgrading of a Telemetry Tracking and Command Station in Indonesia will begin to see implementation by April 2014.

Projects to set up four IT centres in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) countries, supported by a Resource Centre located in India, have also been finalised for implementation.

The Monarch lauded all the progress that has been done to continue guiding the Plan of Action and was pleased that it has been updated to be in line with last year’s vision statement in the aspirations as strategic partners.

His Majesty was also pleased with what have been done so far, especially on some of the more recent additions following the mid-term review. - Borneo Bulletin (11 October 2013)