Keen on fast-tracking the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), India on Tuesday invited companies from Asean countries to invest in numerous sectors here. Talking at the 9th edition of the Delhi Dialogue, a conference in which policymakers converge to discuss a range of issues relating to India-Asean relations, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said: “We place Asean at heart of our ‘Act East Policy’ and centre of our dream of an Asian century. Asean and India are natural partners that share geographical, historical and civilisational ties.”
“We are making efforts on all fronts to enhance physical and digital connectivity,” said the minister, adding that future focus areas of cooperation between Asean members and India can be described in term of 3C’s- commerce, connectivity and culture.” According to the minister connectivity is the core focus area for India. “We are making progress in enhancing the physical and digital connectivity.”
The Delhi Dialogue is being organised by the MEA in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), and other bodies of the Asean countries.
Asserting that in the last three years, the government has undertaken a number of initiatives to boost the economy, Sushma said: “India is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world.” The minister pointed out to the senior leaders of the Asean countries that the government has introduced a series of reforms to improve the business environment here, including the recent launch of the goods and services tax (GST).
Referring to the growing potential for trade and investments between India and the Asean member countries, she said: “We are engaged in RCEP negotiations. The next round of negotiations will be taking place in Hyderabad end of July.”
This will be the 19th round of RCEP negotiations in Hyderabad. The next milestone for the negotiations will be when Asean leaders and their dialogue partners gather later this year in the Philippines, which is chairing the 10-country bloc this year. Indian officials involved in the RCEP negotiations conceded there would be difficulties in concluding the agreement.
According to officials, only Prime Minister Narendra Modi was empowered to take a final decision on whether India could offer more concessions on import tariffs on goods.
The Delhi Dialogue IX, themed this year on ‘Asean-India Relations: Charting the Course for the Next 25 Years’, began on Tuesday. Political leaders, policymakers, senior officials, diplomats, business leaders, think tanks and academicians from both sides participated in the discussions.
On the second day, leading business leaders from India and Asean countries will address the Business Session of the conference.
The Delhi Dialogue is being held every year since 2009. It is a premier annual track 1.5 event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between Asean and India.
This year’s event marks the completion of 25 years of India-Asean relations. The conference has acquired increased significance with growing India-Asean ties which have become a corner stone of India’s Act East policy. The conference is taking place at a time of some significant security-related developments in the South East Asian region.