India in Asia
performance so far has revealed our strengths as well as future
areas of growth. It has demonstrated where we can provide leadership
and how we can integrate into the global economy. As India’s
economic development accelerates, India’s association with Asia
will only widen and deepen further.
challenge lies in its immense political, economic and social
diversity, as also the seemingly unique dynamics of its different
regions. A cooperative future global order will inevitably require
full Asian participation. With its increasing weight in world
economy, Asia holds the key to collective global prosperity and
security. Asia’s contribution to world output has doubled since
1950. Both IMF and the World Bank consider that Asia will continue
to power global growth in the coming years. We require, therefore,
to advance the principles of democracy, development and dialogue, on
the basis of respect for pluralism and national sovereignty, as the
guiding principles of Asian and global progress.
primary impulse for this has to come from within the Asian countries
themselves. But others, including the United States, have a strong
stake in it too. If all major powers in Asia and beyond work
together, in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, to
smoothen its fault lines, combat terrorism, counter proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and advance free commerce and political
freedoms, we would create a basis for a stable and prosperous Asia
that will have a salutary effect on the rest of the world. Guided by
this vision, India is working vigorously to strengthen its relations
with its Asian partners - with China, Japan, Southeast Asia, West
Asian countries and Central Asian neighbours. We have a similar
vision of South Asia unshackled from historical divisions, and bound
together in collective pursuit of peace and prosperity.
seeks to promote in Asia in general, and in South Asia in
particular, its ethos of pluralism, tolerance, democracy and human
rights and by promoting the idea of societies that are multiethnic,
multilingual, multi-religious and multicultural.
years of the existence of the South Asian Association of Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) has so far failed to catalyse significant
exchanges among its constituents in the social or economic domains.
To shake SAARC from this relative torpor, earlier this year I called
for a movement toward a South Asian Union. I believe that a South
Asia, with one currency, one tariff regime and free movement of
goods, services and people, is well within the realm of possibility.
South Asia should emerge as a region with comprehensive air, rail,
road and sea linkages. Movement in this direction would lead to
softer national boundaries, and eventually, the seven South Asian
countries can constitute a single economic space within one system
and a single market.
beyond South Asia, East and Southeast Asia have remained a natural
focus of India’s foreign and trade policy. China is a contiguous
country and we share land or maritime boundaries, not just with our
South Asian neighbours and China, but also with several ASEAN
countries such as Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. Our historical
and civilizational ties also extend to Japan.
the past, India’s engagement with much of Asia, including
Southeast and East Asia, was built on an idealistic conception of
Asian brotherhood, based on shared experiences of colonialism and of
cultural ties. The rhythm of the region today is determined,
however, as much by trade, investment and production as by history
and culture. That is what motivates our decade-old ‘Look East’
policy. Already, this region accounts for 45% of our external trade.
first phase of India’s ‘Look East’ policy was ASEAN-centred
and focussed primarily on trade and investment linkages. The new
phase of this policy is characterised by an expanded definition of
‘East’, extending from Australia to East Asia, with ASEAN at its
core. The new phase also marks a shift from trade to wider economic
and security issues, including joint efforts to protect the
sea-lanes and coordinate counter-terrorism activities.
year, the first India-ASEAN Summit was held at Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Prime Minister of India suggested in this meeting that India and
ASEAN should enter into a free trade agreement. It is a matter of
great satisfaction to us that the Framework Agreement for this
purpose has already been finalized between India and ASEAN and will
be signed at the Second India-ASEAN Summit at Bali in a few days
from now. This major breakthrough should contribute significantly to
an increasing integration of the India-ASEAN economic space over the
coming years, including a free trade agreement. India is
simultaneously negotiating an FTA with Thailand and a Comprehensive
Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore. Both these
negotiations are well advanced. These, along with measures to
improve physical connectivity and transportation links such as the
India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Delhi-Hanoi
railway line, as part of the Ganga-Mekong project, will improve
India-ASEAN linkages even further. With ASEAN engaged in parallel
negotiations on free trade arrangements with India, China, Japan and
South Korea, we are now perhaps at the threshold of an Asian
relations with China are following a positive course. Both sides
have made a steady effort to overcome past differences and build a
forward-looking relationship. Our bilateral trade has shot up from
under US$ 200 million in the early 1990s to nearly US$ 4.5 billion
in 2002, and current trends might carry this figure to US$ 6 billion
this year, with the balance of trade markedly in India’s favour,
which is not the case with many other of China’s trading partners.
The apprehensions of Indian business in dealing with Chinese
competition is slowly withering away. Our trade with Japan, a
country that accounts for 40% of Asian GDP, is at a disappointing $
3.6 billion, but the two sides are now taking pro-active steps to
spur our commercial and economic interaction.
Gulf region and the wider Middle East is of great importance to
India. It is a major source of our energy supplies. Some 3.5 million
Indians are employed in the region, over 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia
alone. Iraq in the pre-1990 days once provided 30% of our oil
imports and was home to 100,000 Indians. Given the growth trends,
India’s dependence on energy supplies from the area is only going
also have traditional links with Central Asia and are exploring new
trade and transportation connections to provide a strong economic
dimension to our relations with countries of the region. The Central
Asian republics could be an alternative source for India’s energy
supplies. India is actively engaged in the reconstruction of
Afghanistan. Besides food support, we have provided buses, civilian
aircraft and human resource training in a variety of areas through
our $270 million assistance programme, which extends also to
agriculture, irrigation and the education and health sectors.
from the text of the speech made by Indian External Affairs Minister
at Harvard University on September 29, 2003