AIR spotlight summary on Prime Minister’s visit to Laos.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vientiane, Laos to attend two important meetings – the 14th Indo-ASEAN summit and the 11th East Asia forum. Participation in these multilateral gathering which are focussed on economic issues is important for India.
- The first ASEAN-India summit was held in 2002 and during that time the prime minister of Malaysia was not keen on India having a separate summit with ASEAN. During that time ASEAN was focussed on East Asia, china, Japan and Republic of Korea. The beginning of ASEAN-India summit was a breakthrough for India in our Look East Policy and now we have an Act East policy.
- In 10 years we have gone from the point of starting of the dialogue with ASEAN to an ASEAN-India summit. Since then we have created an excellent infrastructure of cooperation with ASEAN. We have a strategic partnership with ASEAN. ASEAN as a group is the 7th largest in the world as an economic entity.
- Our trade with ASEAN is worth about $65 billion a year, we have a separate ASEAN-India meeting at foreign minister’s level, commerce minister’s level, special areas like tourism and New and Renewable Energy.
- ASEAN-India summit shows how both countries are progressing in the partnership. We are looking keenly for a regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) agreement which will allow India to deal with ASEAN as a group like we deal with EU. This is very important because ASEAN is now an economic community (AEC).
- There is need for Act East because we need to implement the projects discussed for many years with ASEAN. There has been discussion about trilateral highway between India-Myanmar-Thailand. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. This project is under discussion for long time but the implementation is little slow.
- People of ASEAN will be looking for active participation from India. Thailand has great interests in educational partnerships in terms of study of Sanskrit, Hindi and people to people links.
- The Laos is among the 4 CMLV (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam) countries of ASEAN. Laos’s economy is less developed than others in the region. There is a special reason for India to have an active relationship.
- In Laos teaching of English as a foreign language is in demand. India has a whole of civilisation and cultural heritage links with Laos.
- Interaction of India with ASEAN as a group gives India many opportunities. At one time china had close relations with ASEAN countries. Over the years ASEAN has become bit vary over China. So ASEAN is trying to develop and value their relationship with India.
- India has a strong bilateral relationship with Japan as well.
The issue of South China Sea
- South China Sea issue is a direct issue between china and ASEAN. The Arbitration was called by Philippines and china is not pleased by the decision of the Permanent of Court Arbitration. As a responsible international power China should think of abiding by the decision of the Arbitration.
- India is a great supporter of maritime security and freedom of seas. For India South China Sea is very important for trade, shipping, import and export to the region and oil exploration (like in Vietnam).
The issue of Terrorism
- Many countries in the region like Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia are affected by terrorism. Terrorism is an issue of general and genuine concern to all the countries of ASEAN. Counter terrorism measures, exchange of information and keeping in touch with each other on terrorism are very important.
- It is important for India to raise the issue of terrorism in international forums like G20, ASEAN etc. If we do not raise the issue of terrorism it is not only a mistake but it will be misunderstood by the world community.
- Everyone is aware of the proxy war the Pakistan is fighting, the radicalization of youth in J&K, sending infiltrators, sending black money and all these efforts to keep the situation in J&K in boil. In the international community it is important to raise these linkages.
- Prime minister at G20 said that those who are responsible for terrorism or allow terrorism to take place from their soil should be isolated and sanctioned and must not be rewarded. Terrorism is now a globalised issue.
China and Pakistan factor
- China has considerable muscle power backing Pakistan. All these years we had not talked about Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and china has done things against India’s interest. They have taken shaksgam valley from Pakistan which is the part of PoK and built Karakoram highway. Now China is building China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is passing through PoK. India has to raise these issues at various bilateral and international forums.