Vietnamese Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh (Source:indianexpress.com)
New Delhi (VNA) – Vietnam will work hard for closer ties between India and ASEAN, especially CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam), stated Vietnamese Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh during the fifth India-ASEAN Economic Forum in India’s capital city of New Delhi on July 8.

He affirmed that Vietnam will continue fostering deeper integration of both sides into regional cooperation mechanisms.

He noted that India and ASEAN have joined hands for stronger connectivity in both strategy and economy.

After over two decades since India launched its “Look East” policy, bilateral ties have seen rapid growth from sectorial dialogue partners in 1992 to full dialogue partners in 1996, and from high-level partnership to strategic partnership in 2012, he noted.

India has considered the association a key pillar in its “Look East” policy in the past and current “Act East” policy, while ASEAN sees India as a potential partner with high credit in the region, he said, adding that both sides share many common perspectives on regional and global issues.

The diplomat held that the potential is high for cooperation between India – an emerging economy with the fastest growth and one of the most attractive foreign investment destinations in the world, and the ASEAN Economic Community founded on December 31, 2015, which is the world fourth largest economy with a combined population of 622 million and GDP of 2,500 billion USD.

Fostering bilateral trade is one of the priorities in their new action plan for the 2016-2020 period towards an ASEAN-India partnership for common peace, progress and prosperity, stated the ambassador.

However, he pointed out that annual trade between the two sides has yet to meet expectation, suggesting that India’s private sector engage stronger in regional value chains to make full use of their competitiveness in a number of specific areas, including electronics, gemstones, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, cotton yarn and garments, IT and services.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (Assocham)’s statistics, India-ASEAN bilateral trade tripled to reach 65 billion USD in the 2015-16 period from only 21 billion USD in the 2005-06 period. Assocham President Kanoria asserted that in the future, bilateral trade will thrive when the ASEAN-India free trade agreement, which supports the removal of tax on many goods, takes effect.

Addressing the event, Secretary for the East for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Preeti Saran said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will motivate economic and trade cooperation between India and ASEAN, as well as within the Asia-Pacific region.

She affirmed that India’s “Act East” policy focuses on connection, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a credit of 1 billion USD for ASEAN-India connectivity at the ASEAN-India Summit in November last year, as well as a fund for development of projects to build production bases in CLMV countries to boost trade ties, especially among small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The secretary added that India is also working closely with ASEAN on both traditional and non-traditional security issues, including building a regional security structure, fighting cyber and trans-national crimes, and providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

India will foster further coordination with the association in dealing with terrorism through the increase of intelligence information exchanges, as well as stronger partnership among law enforcement bodies and the deepening of connectivity between coast guard forces, navies and customs organisations, she said.

The fifth India-ASEAN Economic Forum was held by Assocham and was the first among activities leading up to the 14 th ASEAN-India Summit and the 11 th East Asia Summit.-VNA