Ramping up bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including defence and security and taking the strategic ties to a new level will be common feature when Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts his visit to Malaysia and Singapore later this week. Modi will visit Malaysia and Singapore from November 21 during which he will attend the 13th Asean-India Summit and the 10th East Asia Summit (EAS).
Seven statements and declarations are expected to be adopted at the EAS to reinforce its commitment to specific issues including countering violent extremism, ensuring security and enhancing regional maritime cooperation. Modi along with other East Asia Summit Heads of State and Government will also witness the signing ceremony by Asean’s “2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Community” and the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Asean 2025: Forging Ahead Together”.
Enhancing economic relations and shoring up efforts to combat terrorism will be the focus of Modi when he addresses two powerful regional blocs at the Asean-India and East Asia summits during his three-day visit to Kuala Lumpur beginning Saturday. The regional blocs are also keen on expanding expanding cooperation in host of other areas such as maritime security and dealing with illicit drug trafficking and cyber crime.
Asean is India’s fourth largest trading partner and India in turn is sixth largest trading partner for the bloc. The combined GDP of both sides is $ 2.57 trillion. On November 21, Modi will attend the 13th Asean-India Summit and will address the East Asia Summit the next day.
Briefing the mediapersons ahead of the visits, Anil Wadhwa, secretary, (East), MEA, said: “In view of rise of non-traditional security threats, Asean and India are looking closely in addressing terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber crime and piracy along the Malacca Strait.” Also, “A statement on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations is also likely to be issued by the leaders of East Asia Summit.”
Negotiations on an RCEP Agreement, involving the 10 Asean countries and its six FTA partners including India, have seen some breakthroughs and are expected to be concluded in 2016. He said RCEP will open door for Indian business in the RCEP countries having combined GDP of $ 17 trillion.
At the Asean summit, the leaders will take note of the new Plan of Action (2016-2020) to further enhance Asean-India cooperation along the politico-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.
India and Asean countries are also likely to discuss ways to enhance connectivity links. A motor vehicles agreement among India-Myanmar-Thailand has just been finalised and the negotiations for Asean-India maritime transport agreement are also underway, he said.
Trade between India and Asean stood at $ 76.52 billion in 2014-15. India’s exports to Asean were $ 31.81 billion and India’s imports from Asean were USD 44.71 billion. The Asean-India economic integration process has got a fillip with the creation of the Asean-India Free Trade Area in July this year, after the Asean-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements came into force.
Modi’s visit to Malaysia is also a bilateral one and he will have wide-ranging talks with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak and will unveil a statue of Swamy Vivekananda and gift a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to Malaysia. Both sides are expected to sign an MoU to enhance cooperation in cyber-security, before Modi leaves for Singapore.
The focus of the visit to Singapore will include ‘five S plank’ of scaling up trade and investment, speeding up connectivity, smart cities, skills development and state focus. During two day visit to Singapore from November 23, the two countries are expected to conclude a ‘strategic partnership’, besides meeting top CEOs and address the Indian community.
Singapore has emerged as the second-largest source of FDI into India at about $ 35.9 billion (total for April 2000 to June 2015), which is about 13.9 % of total FDI into India,” said an MEA official. Indian investments into Singapore are also fairly large at $ 37 billion.
“During the visit, we would conclude a strategic partnership with Singapore, along with further strengthening of our defence relationships,” Wadhwa said.
According to the secretary (east) MEA, “Also, an enhanced defence cooperation agreement is likely to be signed during this visit, along with some other MoUs on cyber security, culture, training on urban management etc.”
The bilateral trade with Singapore is about $ 17 billion and Singaporean companies are very active in India since early 1990s, including in equity markets. Singapore has a strategic location with status as a financial, aviation and maritime hub.
Responding to a question about the CEOs meeting Modi in Singapore, Wadhwa said the list is still a work in progress. “For urban development sector, we are trying to collaborate with Singapore by way of training. Singapore has agreed to set up a centre in ITI in Udaipur and would set up another skill centre in the North-East,” he said.
Modi will deliver the prestigious Singapore Lecture where the Prime minister of that country will be present, soon after his arrival on the evening of November 23 from Malaysia.