External affairs minister Salman Khurshid left for Brunei on Sunday to attend three key Asean meetings as part of India's Look East policy. Khurshid will participate in a series of high-level discussions where crucial economic and security issues in the region will be on the agenda.
In Brunei, Khurshid will attend the 11th India-Asean ministerial meeting. He will also participate in the third East Asia Summit Ministerial Meeting of foreign ministers and the 20th Asean Regional Forum meeting on July 1-2.
Brunei, the chair of the meet, has proposed two new initiatives - on food security and setting up a Track-2 study group. Khurshid is expected to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts from China, Bangladesh, Australia, Indonesia and Brunei on the sidelines of the East Asia ministerial meeting. It will be a preparatory meeting to the summit in October later this year.
As part of efforts to deepen its cooperation with Asean, India last week launched the Asean India Centre in New Delhi. The grouping consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Partnership with the Asean countries constitutes the "core" of India’s Look East policy with the combined population of India and the major Southeast Asian bloc working out to 1.8 billion, around one-fourth of the global population. The combined GDP of the region being around $3 trillion, Khurshid said.
India has 25 mechanisms that underscore its interaction with the Asean, including six at the ministerial level - on foreign affairs, trade, agriculture, tourism, environment, and new and renewable energy.
India is also an active participant in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between Asean and its Free Trade Agreement Partners - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
At the East Asia Summit (EAS) ministerial meeting, Khurshid would update the participants of the progress made on the Nalanda University that is coming up in Rajgir, Bihar, on the lines of the ancient university.
The minister travels to Singapore July 3 and 4 for a bilateral meeting, his first to that country.
In Singapore, he will also participate and chair the regional meeting of Indian Heads of Mission in the Asean as well as the Pacific and East Asia.
India’s Heads of Mission from Ascountries as well as from Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand would be attending the meet, a ministry of external affairs spokesperson said.
The EAS meet would discuss cooperation in the five key areas of education, energy, finance, disaster management and pandemics apart from connectivity and further economic partnership between member states. The meeting is also expected to prepare for the Summit later this year.