Ambassador of Vietnam to India Ton Sinh Thanh (middle) (Source: VNA) 
New Delhi (VNA) – A meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Partnership between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took place in New Delhi, India on June 22.

In her speech, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said 2017 marks a turning point when ASEAN celebrates the 50th founding anniversary while India and ASEAN observe the 25th anniversary of Dialogue Relations, the 15th anniversary of Summit-level interaction, and the fifth anniversary of strategic partnership.

She said ASEAN and India are home to a combined 1.85 billion people, accounting for one fourth of the global population, and record a total gross domestic product of more than 3.8 trillion USD.

She added that India’s Act East policy announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi places Southeast Asia in a core position.

India is partnering with ASEAN to develop security architecture in Asia-Pacific and supports the bloc’s centrality, she said, underscoring the peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperative solutions to tackle emerging non-traditional challenges.

Increasing security at sea is also one of the key cooperative areas for both sides, she said.

Over the past 25 years, ASEAN has become the fourth largest trade partner of India with 10 percent of the country’s total trade while India has grown into the seventh largest trade partner of the bloc. In 2016-2017, bilateral trade grew 8 percent.

At a round-table seminar on the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Partnership earlier the same day, Ambassador of Vietnam to India Ton Sinh Thanh said ASEAN considers India a trustworthy partner in the region while India regards the bloc a main pillar in its Act East policy.

With 30 cooperation mechanisms and 21 out of 26 projects in the ASEAN-India Action Plan for 2016-2018 underway, both sides need to seek effective ways to lift two-way trade to 200 billion USD, he stated.

Highlighting that ASEAN wants to witness India’s more active involvement in Southeast Asia, including the East Sea issue, Thanh said India could play a constructive role in maintaining peace and security in the region by working together with ASEAN in maintaining compliance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, diplomatic and legal processes in the region.

He stated that as a coordinating country of ASEAN-India relations for 2015-2018, Vietnam will do its best to develop their close ties. -VNA