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Rediff.com  » Business » India seeks closer engagement with East Asia: PM

India seeks closer engagement with East Asia: PM

Last updated on: January 13, 2007 13:22 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday left for the 5th Indo-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and the 2nd East Asian summit to be held in Cebu, Philippines.

India and ASEAN will consider "new initiatives" to accelerate the process of economic engagement in the region, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.

Singh, who left on a three-day visit to the Philippines city of Cebu to attend the India-ASEAN and East Asia summits, said he would also explore steps both sides can take to hasten the conclusion of the India-ASEAN free trade agreement.

"Our participation in both these summits is a reflection of the increasing significance of the eastern orientation of India's foreign policy and our quest for closer engagement with countries of East Asia," he said.

The Prime Minister said that the India-ASEAN free trade agreement was an "important initiative" to promote greater economic synergy in the Asian region.

The second East Asia summit on Monday would provide an opportunity to take forward a process that was initiated last year to put in place a regional architecture for greater cooperation and economic integration among countries of East Asia, Singh said.

The agenda includes energy security, stability of the regional financial systems, mitigating national disasters, environment and other subjects of common interest that can only be tackled effectively within a broad inclusive framework.

Singh said on the sidelines of the Summit, he will have the opportunity of meeting counterparts from other countries including Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines.

The prime minister said he was looking forward to the visit and utilising it to elevate India's engagements in East Asia to qualitatively new levels.

India and Asean cleared a major roadblock to the proposed free trade agreement with the grouping accepting New Delhi's proposal for maintaining a 'negative list' of 490 items with trade coverage not exceeding five per cent by both sides.

Implementation of the FTA was to have begun on January 1, 2006 but was deferred by a year due to differences on a number of issues like rules of origin, 'sensitive list' and modalities for tariff reduction and elimination.

India, China, Japan and South Korea are dialogue partners of Asean comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Brunei.

The basic agenda for the India-Asean Summit would be to review ongoing cooperation in different fields like entrepreneurship development, English language training, IT cooperation and expansion of economic assistance to CLMV countries comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Cooperation in sectors like tourism, transport and infrastructure are likely to figure during the discussions.

The two sides would discuss ways of tapping the vast potential for enhancing economic cooperation. India-Asean trade crossed $23 billion registering a ten-fold increase since 1990.

The Prime Minister is accompanied by wife Gursharan Kaur, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and other top officials. The two summits, scheduled for last month, were deferred due to a typhoon.

Additional inputs: PTI

Sumit Bhattacharya on board Air India 1 Tanjore