Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has affirmed that India’s engagement with ASEAN and its member countries is the cornerstone of the country’s “Look East policy and has evolved into a strong, comprehensive and multi-faceted partnership in recent years.

The PM told the press on October 9 before leaving for visits to Brunei , where he will attend the 11 th India-ASEAN Summit and the 8 th East Asian Summit, and Indonesia , two of India ’s important partners in Southeast Asia .

The India-ASEAN relation started with a strong economic emphasis, focusing on commerce and connectivity, but has increasingly acquired strategic content, he stated.

Singh said that the Summit in Brunei will be the first since the elevation of bilateral relations to a Strategic Partnership at the special Commemorative Summit in New Delhi and the conclusion of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment in December 2012.

“It will give me and my ASEAN colleagues an opportunity to review the progress in our relations over the last few months and explore initiatives to add further momentum and content to our relationship,” he noted.

According to the PM, the East Asia Summit is the foremost forum for promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the dynamic Asia Pacific region.

Given India ’s vital stakes in the region, the country has been closely involved in the evolution of an open, balanced and inclusive regional architecture, on the basis of the centrality of the ASEAN.

India sees the East Asia Summit as a springboard to regional cooperation and integration and is participating in the negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership among the ASEAN and its FTA partners, which will help create an economic community in the region.

Singh said his next destination, Indonesia , is not only a key ASEAN member and a country with growing regional and global profile, but also an important bilateral partner of India .

India sees relations with Indonesia as an essential part of its integration with the broader region, he said, adding that the visit also aims to reiterate India ’s commitment to building a stronger partnership with ASEAN.

He expressed his hope that his visits to Brunei and Indonesia will further intensify India’s engagement to the East, which has been at the forefront of its foreign policy, and contribute to peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific.-VNA