India’s bilateral and economic ties with Japan, South Korea and China were bolstered because of its association with the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Nations (ASEAN)-India trade in goods agreement was signed on August 13, 2009 and it came into force in January, 2010.
The ten ASEAN countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Jaishankar made these comments in a foreword published in a book titled: “ASEAN and India: The Way Forward," which was launched in Singapore on Wednesday.
Ties with Japan and South Korea were energised as a result (of the India-ASEAN ties). Economic contacts with China expanded steadily, the minister said. And the remarkable upswing in India-Australia relations that includes a recently concluded Free Trade Agreement is the latest corollary, he wrote in the 300-page book launched by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) was signed on April 2, 2022 by Australia’s then Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan and India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal.
Bilateral cooperation with the individual ASEAN member states have intensified, and sub-regional mechanisms like the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation have also developed, he wrote.
The ties India fostered with ASEAN had a number of profound implications. First, it spurred the re-globalisation of India that is now gathering momentum. Second, it enhanced Indian awareness of its maritime interests. Third, it introduced economic and governance practices that drew from experiences to its East, and lastly it re-connected an extended neighbourhood that had been distanced by post-war developments, Jaishankar wrote.
As Singapore commenced our three-year coordinatorship of ASEAN-India dialogue relations in August 2021, we hope to work more closely with India to elevate ASEAN-India relations to new heights as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Vivian Balakrishanan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore, said in his foreword.
He highlighted the potential for cooperation in emerging areas such as post COVID-19 recovery, technology, digital economy and climate change.
Bilateral trade under the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITGA), which came into force in Jan 2010, surged by 36 per cent to USD77.1 billion in 2019 from USD56.7 billion in 2020, as bilateral trade declined to USD 63.8 billion in 2020 due to COVID-19, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi wrote.
Lim is confident of growth momentum in the third foreword to the book by the Institute of South Asian Studies, a think-tank in the National University of Singapore.
Cooperation in the economic sphere spans from trade and investment, energy, finance, science, technology and innovation, and information and communication technology to the blue economy and the digital economy, he wrote. India’s High Commissioner to Singapore, P. Kumaran shared his thoughts in the concluding section of the book.
India should look at greater integration in service sector value-chains with ASEAN, as the latter’s share of India’s service exports is less than five per cent, the envoy wrote. Market access for Indian service-providers in key modes and sub-sectors is still subject to restrictions arising from a lack of mutual recognition, commercial presence conditions and visa/immigration requirements.
These regulatory and other barriers need to be addressed, he stressed. A total of 42 Indians and Southeast Asians have offered their perspectives on a wide range of issues in this book.