21ST CENTURY TRULY AN ASIAN CENTURY’: PM
ADDRESS AT SPECIAL LEADERS DIALOGUE OF ASEAN BUSINESS ADVISORY COUNCIL
the ‘Look East Policy” launched in 1992, the Prime Minister,
Dr. Manmohan Singh, has reiterated India’s commitment to work
with ASEAN and East Asian countries to make the 21st century truly
an Asian century. Seeking closer interaction with ASEAN, Dr. Manmohan
Singh has expressed the Government’s commitment to bring down
tariff levels prevalent in ASEAN countries and dismantle unwarranted
barriers. Delivering the keynote address at the Special Leaders
Dialogue of ASEAN Business Advisory Council at Kuala Lumpur today,
the Prime Minister said that a pan-Asian FTA would be a dynamic,
open and inclusive association of the countries of the region. “Regional
trading arrangements have become important building blocks of multilateralism
in an increasingly globalised world”, Dr. Singh added.
Prime Minister advocated closer linkages between India and ASEAN
countries by identifying and drawing upon the strengths of each
other. “I believe that the East Asian Community is a natural
extension of the ASEAN-India engagement process”, he said.
Dr. Singh expressed the confidence that the process of engagement
in the Asian region would be self-sustaining, enhancing direct contact
between peoples of the region.
to the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation
with ASEAN concluded in 2003, the Prime Minister said that a similar
model was being developed with Thailand and that a Joint Study Group
for conclusion of Free Trade Agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia,
Japan and Republic of Korea was being set up.
a willingness to share skills in sectors such as information technology,
space, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, the Prime Minister said
that the abundance of natural resources and significant technological
skills in the ASEAN region provided a natural base for the growth
of synergies and integration between ASEAN and India – both
in trade and investment. Dr. Singh hoped that the present level
of bilateral trade could be doubled by 2007, reaching a target of
US $ 30 billion by then.
Prime Minister also urged the Council to be active to exert pressure
on Governments to move faster and to reach out to all stakeholders
in India and ASEAN member countries to mobilise opinion in favour
of greater regional interaction.
is the text of the Prime Minister’s keynote address:
am indeed very happy to have the opportunity to address such an
important forum as yours. I thank Dato Ajit Singh for the kind words
that he has spoken about me and my country. He is an old friend
and I believe it is customary on such occasions to praise one’s
friends. But I have known him for many-many years when he was in
the Malaysian Civil service, then he rose to head the ASEAN Secretariat.
We have great admiration for him in our country as a great friend
of India and a great ambassador of goodwill for ASEAN. I take his
opportunity to thank the ASEAN Business Advisory Council for inviting
me to outline our vision of the India-ASEAN partnership. I assure
you we take this partnership very seriously and we are determined
to carry this partnership to an ever-expanding horizon.
of you might recall that in 1992, our Government launched India’s
“Look East Policy”. This was not merely an external
economic policy, it was also a strategic shift in India’s
vision of the world and India’s place in the evolving global
economy. Most of all it was about reaching out to our civilizational
neighbours in South East Asia and East Asia. I have always viewed
India’s destiny as being inter-linked with that of Asia and
moreso South East Asia. I reiterate India’s commitment to
work with ASEAN and East Asian countries to make the 21st century
truly an Asian century.
share in the global flows of goods, services, knowledge and culture
has grown exponentially in the past decade. Today, our external
economic profile is robust and re-assuring to investors, at home
as well as abroad. After registering an 8 per cent rate of growth
in 2003-2004, our economy recorded upwards of 7.0 per cent growth
for two years in a row. Indeed, in the first half of the current
fiscal year, we have touched 8.5% and it is our ambition in the
next three-four years to raise India’s growth rate to the
range of 9 to 10 per cent per annum. In the past year and a half,
our policies relating to investment, taxation, foreign trade, foreign
direct investment, banking, finance and capital markets have evolved
to make Indian industry and enterprise more competitive globally.
We have launched a massive program for rural renewal which will
upgrade rural infrastructure and incomes and thereby expand the
domestic market. New policies are enabling public-private partnership
in the modernisation of roads systen, railways system, ports, airports,
power and the entire urban infrastructure.
I am happy to report to you that India is a vibrant marketplace.
Our entrepreneurs are investing overseas successfully. Businesses
from abroad, including from ASEAN, Japan and the Republic of Korea,
find India a productive and profitable business destination. Similarly,
the gathering momentum of India-China relations is visible in the
expansion of our bilateral economic ties. The process of engagement
in the Asian region has truly taken off. I am confident it will
be self-sustaining, enhancing direct contact between peoples and
civil societies of the region.
challenge that faces all of us today is to create and maintain a
regional and international environment that enables us to attain
and sustain high rates of economic growth. We must create opportunities
for entrepreneurship to flourish not only locally, but also regionally
and globally. Economic activity cannot be confined to national borders;
it must be channelled to fuel growth in each other’s countries.
Regional trading arrangements have become important building blocks
of multilateralism in an increasingly globalized world that we live
India seeks closer economic interaction with ASEAN. We are committed
to bringing down our tariffs to levels prevalent in ASEAN countries,
to dismantle unwanted barriers and to expand global capital flows.
We must walk this road together with ASEAN, so that enterprises
in our countries find it a mutually beneficial process, not a hurtful
one. There may be losers, and there will certainly be gainers, but
on the whole, we will obtain a win-win outcome and that should be
our ambition to work jointly.
this context, India has concluded a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive
Economic Cooperation with ASEAN in 2003 and with Singapore more
recently, a few months ago. We are developing a similar model with
Thailand, and are setting up a Joint Study Group for conclusion
of Free Trade Agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and the
Republic of Korea. We are also examining ways to develop regional
trading arrangements with our great neighbour - China. These are
all milestones on the road to the eventual creation of an Asian
Economic Community, or the ‘arc of prosperity’ that
I envisage to become a reality in the early part of the 21st century.
the objective basis for the economies of our region to come together
already exists. The subjective desire to create an East Asian Community,
bringing together ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea, and also Australia
and New Zealand, is manifest. Like the North American Free Trade
Area, and the expanding European Union, a Pan-Asian FTA will be
a dynamic, open and inclusive association of the countries of our
vast region. This will not be easy, and it cannot be done in a day.
There will be sceptics. But for believers, it is eminently possible.
I am convinced that this is the only way to move forward and India
wishes to associate with other like-minded countries to make it
that the East Asian Community is a natural extension of the ASEAN-India
engagement process. The India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement can become
the first step in the process. The limited Free Trade Area is a
beginning but we must ensure that it leads to explosive growth –
both in trade and investment.
essence of the idea is to build up closer linkages among India and
the countries of the ASEAN. This we believe can be done through
identifying and drawing upon each other’s strengths. The key
to the future is the development of new synergies. In the 1960s,
synergies between scientists in India and scientists at the International
Rice Research Institute in the Philippines contributed to the dawn
of Green Revolution in India. This resulted in filling India’s
granaries with foodgrains. We have both benefited from each other.
India has developed expertise in high technology areas such as Information
Technology, Space, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals. We are ready
to share our skills in these sectors with our partners in ASEAN
and other developing countries. Each of these sectors presents its
own opportunities for India-ASEAN cooperation.
the growing recognition of complementary strengths, India is developing
increasing links to ASEAN and East Asian production networks. These
links relate to the knowledge intensive segments of the value chain.
They include software development, R&D, engineering and designing
and high quality manufacturing, and are invaluable to the furthering
of the process of integration.
best aspect of our renewed engagement is that both of us recognise
now that we have something to offer one another. The ASEAN region
has an abundance of natural resources and significant technological
skills. These provide a natural base for the growth of synergies
and integration between ASEAN and India - in both trade and investment.
I believe we can double the present level of bilateral trade by
2007, reaching a target of US$30 billion by then.
therefore happy that the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN India Business
Council was held in May 2005 in this very beautiful city. The Council
must be active to exert pressure on Governments to move faster than
they are wont to do. It must reach out to all stakeholders in India
and ASEAN member countries to mobilise opinion in favour of greater
regional interaction. I look forward to working with leaders in
this region for the future success of India- ASEAN cooperation and
that of the East Asian community. On behalf of the Government of
India, I pledge myself to work with all like-minded countries and
like-minded friends to make the future happening”.