India to begin ASEAN engagement with Delhi Dialogue

February 12th, 2012 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) India will kick off its year-long intense engagements with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) with a high-level dialogue, beginning here Monday, on critical economic, security and capacity-building issues between them.

The comprehensive engagement, a principal instrument for taking India’s Look East policy of the last two decades to new heights, will culminate in the India-Asean summit at the end of 2012, when India will host the heads of states or governments of the 10-nation grouping.

The two-day Delhi Dialogue, the fourth in the series that began in 2009, will focus on ‘India and Asean: Partners for Peace, Progress and Stability’.

The event, to be held at Hotel Taj Palace, has been divided into four thematic sessions which would address economic cooperation, regional security, non-traditional security threats and networks of knowledge and science.

The two-day intense deliberations are being hosted by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), the think tank of the external affairs ministry, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

“The Delhi Dialogue is a significant step forward in India’s fast-growing relations with Asean. It is an important event since Asean ministers are taking part at the invitation of our external affairs minister. This is the fourth edition of the annual dialogue. The leaders of the region will think of new ideas to substantially increase the cooperation in key areas for the mutual benefit of their peoples,” ICWA Director General Sudhir T. Devare told IANS.

Apart from India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, other foreign ministers to join the discussions include Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Malaysian Foreign Minister Sri Anifah Aman and Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

This high-powered gathering of foreign ministers from the region will be joined by the deputy foreign ministers of Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, apart from Asean Deputy Secretary-General for Community and Corporate Affairs Bagas Hapsoro.

Since the Narasimha Rao government of 1991 made a conscious shift in its strategic focus to the South-East Asian nations, with the aim of benefiting from the tremendous economic progress of the neighbouring region, India and Asean have had comprehensive engagement, resulting in greater understanding between the two on global politico-economic, security, social and cultural spheres.

On the economic front, there have been significant agreements such as the one for free trade, which is likely to mature in the near future into a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement.

The historic linkages between them and the people-to-people contact over centuries have only acted as a catalyst for the two sides to experiment and expand further the partnership with new infrastructure projects such as the trilateral highway from India to Thailand via Myanmar and exploring a sea link between Chennai and Singapore.

The fourth edition of Delhi Dialogue will also search for opportunities for India and Asean to cooperate on non-traditional security threats such as climate change, water and food security, terrorism, piracy, pandemics and cyber security, such as building capacities to meet the challenges and joint action.

Among the more important aspect of the Delhi Dialogue agenda will be capacity-building for the region in the form of exchanges of knowledge and cooperation in scientific endeavours.

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