Lets make ASEAN a peoples movement: Manmohan Singh

November 21st, 2007 - 5:06 pm ICT by admin  

By Naveen Kapoor
Singapore, Nov 21 (ANI): Terming Indias relationship with ASEAN countries as the pillar of its Look East policy, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today urged participating leaders to make it a peoples movement.
In the final analysis, if the India-ASEAN process is to take root, it must become a peoples movement, Dr. Singh said at the Sixth India-ASEAN Summit here.
Expressing hope that the trade between India and ASEAN will reach 50 billion dollars by 2010, Dr. Singh said, India has already exceeded the target of 30 billion, which was set for year 2007.
To facilitate this, he said that the two sides should agree on a process to simplify the visa regime for businessmen to travel from India to ASEAN and vice-versa.
Dr. Singh is also optimistic about the implementation of Free Trade Agreement which is under negations.
Our officials have been engaged in active negotiations to conclude the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. I have no doubt that we all share a common political will to reach an agreement at the earliest. We will work together with you to conclude the negotiations, as agreed, by March next year, he said.
Expressing happiness over the operationalisation of the India-ASEAN Science and Technology Fund, he said, I am happy to announce that we have created this Fund with an initial corpus fund of one million US dollars. This Fund should be used to encourage collaborative R and D and technology development so that we can harness knowledge for the creation of wealth.
The Prime Minister also proposed India-ASEAN health care initiative, which is aimed at providing basic drugs at low cost through joint production of drugs formulations and will work upon tackling the epidemics like Avian Influenza.
I propose that the India-ASEAN Working Group dealing with health be directed to prepare a India-ASEAN Health Care Initiative, he added.
Seeking the setting up of an India-ASEAN Network on climate change, he has proposed to set up an India-ASEAN Green Fund with an initial contribution of US dollars five million for pilot projects to promote adaptation and mitigation technologies.
Climate change, which has emerged as a major challenge, especially for developing countries, Dr. Singh said, We are already in the process of identifying a centre of excellence for climate change. I would propose the setting up of an India-ASEAN Network on Climate Change that would pool and share expertise, exchange best practices and submits recommendations for common positions taking into account national priorities.
Speaking on exchange programmes for students and diplomats from ASEAN, he said that we will make the training courses for ASEAN diplomats a yearly feature.
This year, we have concluded Memorandums of Understanding for the establishment of Centres of English Language Training in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Together with Entrepreneurship Development Centres in these countries, this initiative will contribute to capacity building and empowerment of youth in these countries, he added.
Landlocked countries of ASEAN have asked India to expand road, rail and sea connectivity in the region.
There are over 215 direct and indirect flights every week between India and Singapore, 115 flights with Thailand and 50 with Malaysia. But we seek much more from our Open Skies Policy with ASEAN, he said.
Observing that tourists are increasingly looking eastward and more than two million tourists from India are expected to travel to ASEAN holiday destinations this year, he said, the number of tourist arrivals from ASEAN countries to India has gone up to 280,000 but it is evident that there is huge scope for expansion.
I would, therefore, propose that we agree to work towards a target of one million tourist arrivals from ASEAN to India by the year 2010, he added.
Sharing Indias vision of an Asian economic community consisting of an integrated market and linked by efficient road, rail, air and shipping services, he said, the creation of this arc of advantage will be possible if we can successfully create a robust institutional architecture for regional cooperation and action.
Later, he said, I am extremely optimistic about the future of our partnership. The multi-sectoral approach towards our cooperation is the right one. I want to assure you that you will find an enthusiastic partner in India.
India has a stake in ASEANs stability and prosperity just as we believe ASEAN has a stake in the transformation that India is experiencing, the Prime Minister added. (ANI)

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