Inaugurating the ASEAN India Centre here on Friday, six months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ASEAN leaders had directed their respective establishments to do so through their vision statement at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit of December 20, 2012, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the centre would further expand the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
Addressing a distinguished gathering of people, including ASEAN Heads of Missions and their officials, Indian representatives from the ASEAN India Eminent Persons Group, prominent members of the strategic community in India, representatives from the media, and officials from the different ministries involved in the setting up of the centre, Khurshid said: " The ASEAN-India strategic partnership has strong foundations of shared civilizational bonds, a recent history of common effort towards economic growth and prosperity and a common future that has to be secured not just within the new security and economic architecture of the Asia Pacific but also the Indo-Pacific."
He further went on to say that in the last few years, the ASEAN-India region has seen a multiplicity of stakeholders and a fraternity of purpose for tackling common challenges.
"We need to build an architecture that contributes to the geo-strategic importance of the region to global processes and, most importantly, secures economic growth and prosperity for the people in our countries," he said, and added, "This is the strength of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership as an anchor of stability from the western confines of the Indian Ocean to the shores of the Pacific, from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca.
"The centrality of the ASEAN and the ASEAN way of progess at a pace comfortable to all has contributed to the unanimity of strategic objectives amongst us and also motivated us to look at greater synergy in our multifaceted relationship," Khurshid said.
He said the combined population of India and ASEAN is approximately 1.8 billion, around one-fourth of the global population and the combined GDP of the region is approximately USD three trillion.
"Today, there are very clear achievements in ASEAN-India relations across the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic integration and socio-cultural exchanges. Last year, we saw an intensive engagement across governments and meetings or programmes between experts, think tanks, private sectors, academia, diplomats, farmers, students, media and, in fact, across professions and ages at the people-to-people levels," the foreign minister said.
Dialogue in agriculture, trade, tourism, new and renewable energy and environment has been intensified, he said.
"Capacity building, development, economic growth and peace and stability have been the characteristics of the ASEAN-India partnership. The numerous projects under finalisation as per the Plan of Action for 2010-2015 are set to bring a qualitative enhancement in our partnership," Khurshid said.
"There is still tremendous untapped potential in the ASEAN-India partnership. There are also areas such as the new non-traditional threats to our socio-economic and political systems that need effective redressal," he concluded.