Krishna heads to Bali to boost India-East Asia ties

July 20th, 2011 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) With the US rooting for a bigger role for India in East Asia and China becoming increasingly assertive in the region, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Wednesday headed to Bali to attend the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 27-nation ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Over the next two days, Krishna will be participating in the 9th India-ASEAN post ministerial conference, the 16-nation East Asia Summit foreign ministers consultations and the ARF Ministerial Meeting in Bali, Indonesia. The ARF is the largest security forum in the region.

Pakistan’s newly appointed foreign ministser, Hina Rabbani Khar will also be in Bali for the ARF conclave, but as of now there is no bilateral meeting planned with Krishna.

At the India-ASEAN meeting, the focus will be on firming up the contours of the Commemorative Summit New Delhi will host in December 2012.

The two sides will discuss a host of initiatives to expand economic and security ties between them.

Boosting maritime security and combating piracy to keep the sea lanes of communication safe for commerce will be top of the agenda at the meeting of the ARF ministers.

The ministers will also discuss the preparations and the agenda for the 16-nation East Asia Summit Bali will host later this year.

India and the 10-nation ASEAN have resolved to increase their $55.21 billion bilateral trade to $70 billion by next year.

India and ASEAN have signed a trade in goods agreement and the notification process in respect of all signatories would be complete by the time the ASEAN-India Economic Ministers meet in Manado, Indonesia, on Aug 13, 2011.

The two sides are hopeful of wrapping up the negotiations on the services and investment agreement by the end of the year.

Krishna’s visit to Bali comes at a time when India is rapidly expanding its economic and strategic ties with the East Asia region and many countries are looking to New Delhi to play a balancer against an increasingly assertive China.

In a speech in Chennai Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be heading to Bali Thursday morning, rooted for India’s bigger role in East Asia and underlined that India and the US can collaborate with other countries in the region to promote maritime security and jointly combat piracy.

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