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Asean summit pivotal to India 'Look East' policy: official
Publication Date : 09-10-2013
India's participation in the Asean Summit 2013 is pivotal to its "Look East" policy, said Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam L D Ralte.
Ralte told The Brunei Times in writing ahead of 23rd Asean Summit, which begins today: "We accept the central role of Asean in the region and appreciate the inclusive nature of the programmes developed in this forum for partners like India in the development and maintenance of a peaceful region."
India is one of the Asean dialogue partners, alongside Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
The 11th Asean-India Summit will be held tomorrow.
The high commissioner said the widening summit agenda was a reflection of growing relations between the two sides. "The agenda has been widening as relationships have grown, and have become more diverse, from maritime security to food security, social and economic to biodiversity and economic integration.
"All these are likely to lead to more intense interaction between participating countries both at bilateral as well as at multilateral levels, which of course will be beneficial to all."
He described India-Brunei relations as "traditionally friendly, warm and comfortable".
Furthermore, he said the encouragement His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei has given India's "Look East" policy and integration with the Asean community have led to greater collaboration in recent years.
The policy means India will focus on broadening its strategic and economic outlook with Southeast Asian nations.
"With Brunei taking over as country coordinator for India in Asean since last year, our interactions have increased and this year, with Brunei as Chair of Asean, we have seen much heightened activity.
"The warm bilateral relationship is likely to see us collaborating more intensely in the regional and international arena in the future," he said.
The high commissioner also said India welcomes the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) 2015.
"India is already working very hard to ensure that we do not miss the boat on this welcome movement in Asean," he said.
"We have already completed negotiations on the Asean-India agreements on trade in services and investment, which are likely to be signed before the end of this year.
"These and the ongoing RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) negotiations will ensure that India continues to share in the development of the region and be both a benefactor and a beneficiary.
"We look forward to the greater opportunities and ease of economic activity that the AEC will bring for the region."
Meanwhile, on the South China Sea dispute, the higher commissioner said: "There are some factors in the impasse that seem difficult to solve because of the stance taken by various sides.
"Most important, as a first step, is to ensure that there is full and free passage of maritime traffic as this impinges on the economic welfare of all user countries and not just of those who are in dispute.
"As negotiations proceed, it must be ensured that all participants do so in full freedom and that a situation is created where there is no use of force or threat of use of force in the matter. This will, hopefully, result in lasting decisions and solutions."
Although Ralte said relations between India and Brunei were good, he said there could be greater collaboration in certain sectors.
"There are areas that we need to concentrate on in order to improve our relationship further, such as direct connections in transport, mutual recognition of education degrees, diversification of our economic relationship (at the moment this is mainly hinged on our petroleum imports from Brunei) and easier movement of manpower between our countries.
"Some of these issues are being addressed in the regional context through our trade and economic agreements, but we also need to take some bilateral steps."
There is also room for more cooperation in information communications technology, Ralte said.
"We have an ongoing dialogue on this sector at the governmental level. In the private sector, there are a few collaborations and joint ventures.
"At the moment, we have not looked at the private-public partnership area. Perhaps our ongoing discussions could lead to this area also.
"As you well know, in India this sector has been mainly led by the private sector. We are, therefore, open to various forms of collaboration to improve relations and activities in this area," Ralte said.