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On the occasion of the commemoration of 25 years of India-Asean relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his vision of the relationship in an article titled, Asean-India: Shared values, common destiny, published in 27 newspapers across the 10 Asean countries on Friday. In the article, the PM highlighted New Delhi hosting 10 Asean leaders at India’s Republic Day celebrations as a “historic milestone” and a deepening of partnership of great promise for their 1.9 billion people, about one-fourth of humankind. With concerns at the increase in Chinese assertiveness in the South and East China Seas, the PM said Asean and India should “work together to keep our seas safe and secure”. Without referring to China but in a reference to how some of the Asean countries have maritime disputes with China, Modi said: “India and Asean nations have relations free from contests and claims.” He said India and Asean “have a common vision for the future” with the “belief in sovereign equality of all nations irrespective of size, and support for free and open pathways of commerce and engagement”. The PM said India is an eager participant in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, seeking a comprehensive, balanced and fair agreement for all 16 participants. He said connectivity in the region will increase and trade will expand in the coming years, also because India’s Northeastern states are building productive cooperation with Southeast Asian nations. “India’s Northeast is on a resurgent path. Links with Southeast Asia will accelerate its progress. In turn, a connected Northeast will be a bridge to Asean-India ties of our dreams,” he said. The PM also referred to the measures taken by his government in ‘ease of doing business’ when he said that “with every passing day, it is easier and smoother to do business in India”. The PM referred to India’s civilisational links to the Asean region, and said that when India opened itself to the world more than two decades ago, “it turned naturally to the East” because of “instincts honed over centuries” and began a new journey of India’s reintegration with the East. He said India’s major partners and markets — from Asean and East Asia to North America — lie to the East. “And, Southeast Asia and Asean, our neighbours by land and sea, have been the springboard of our Look East and, for the last three years, the Act East Policy,” he said. He said Asean is India’s fourth largest trading partner; India is Asean’s seventh. Over 20 per cent of India’s outbound investments go to Asean, he said.
Led by Singapore, Asean is India’s leading source of investments. India’s free trade agreements in the region are its oldest and among the most ambitious anywhere, Modi said. Connectivity, over a 6-million strong Indian diaspora in the region.The op-ed article was published in English, Cambodian, Bahasa, Vietnamese, Burmese, Bahasa Malay, Thai, Lao, Tamil and Mandarin, with the PM’s specific remarks on India’s relations with each of the 10 Asean members. With Myanmar, Modi said “India’s transparent development cooperation is in line with Myanmar’s national priorities.” This was a critique of the growing Chinese investments in Myanmar, which purportedly benefit the Chinese more than Myanmar. On Singapore, the PM noted that India-Singapore “defence ties are among the strongest for both” and Singapore is India’s leading destination and source of investments. In Vietnamese papers, the PM highlighted the strategic ties between India and Vietnam. In the Philippines, Modi lauded President Roberto Duterte’s commitment to bringing about inclusive development and to fighting corruption. “These are areas where both countries can work together. We are happy to share our experience with the Philippines in universal ID cards, financial inclusion, making banking accessible to all, facilitating direct transfer of benefits, and in promoting cashless transactions,” he said. The article was also published in Malaysia, Brunei, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Indonesia, with the PM highlighting the salient features of India’s relations with each of these countries.