18th ASEAN-India SOM takes place in Hanoi hinh anh 1Participants take photo at the event (Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – The 18th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) took place in Hanoi on March 17-18.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung and his Indian counterpart Preeti Saran co-chaired the event for the first time since Vietnam took charge of the position of coordinator for ASEAN-India relations from August 2015 to August 2018.

As a strategic partner of ASEAN, India is actively implementing its Act East policy, which sets increasing relations with Southeast Asian countries as a top priority.

The two sides have approved the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity 2016-2020, as they look towards the 25-year celebration of their dialogue ties in 2017.

India is currently one of the strategic partners of ASEAN. The bilateral relations have developed exclusively across three pillars: politics-security, economics, and culture-society, contributing to the building of ASEAN Community in 2015 and increasing regional connectivity.

Two-way trade reached 74.3 billion USD in 2013-2014, which is expected to hit 200 billion USD by 2025, via the effective implementation of bilateral free trade agreements on goods, services and investment.

ASEAN hailed India for its soon-to-be implemented 1-billion-USD credit package to facilitate infrastructure and digital connectivity with the ASEAN bloc.

The two sides agreed to cooperate in their fields of strength such as information technology, space technology, bio-technology, new material technology, environment, and pharmaceutical manufacturing and processing.

They also voiced their deep concerns over the complicated developments in the East Sea, stressing the need to exercise restraint and obey international law, including the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and they expressed hope that a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) will soon be reached.

Participants talked about emerging cross-border challenges such as terrorism, cyber security and climate change.

Addressing the event, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung said as the coordinator of ASEAN-India relations, Vietnam will do its utmost to increase the cooperation between the two sides.

Vietnam will act as a bridge to connect ASEAN and India, to expand collaboration, especially in promoting regional connectivity, developing small and medium-sized enterprises, the digital economy and high technology, he said.

He said India and ASEAN shared a lot of cultural and historical similarities. He suggested the two sides forge closer cooperation for peace, security and development, thus helping ASEAN to promote its central role in the region.

Regarding the East Sea issues, Trung highlighted the maintenance of peace, stability, and navigational safety, freedom and security, as the common concern of all nations in and out of the region, including India.

He said he hopes India will make more active contributions and enhance cooperation with ASEAN to deal with any disputes via peaceful means.

He also underlined the significance of respecting international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and DOC, while avoiding militarisation and conducting result-oriented talks to early conclude COC.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Deputy Minister Trung spoke with his Indian counterpart on increasing the two countries’ high-level delegation exchanges in 2016 and the organisation of their joint committee meeting and periodic political consultations.-VNA