Asean door looks ajar

New Delhi, April 19 | Updated: Apr 20 2005, 05:30am hrs
Indias dream of becoming a part of the proposed Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) economic community might come true with Asean foreign ministers deciding to invite it for attending East Asias first summit in December.

The invitation, extended after a recent meeting of the foreign ministers in the Philippines, however, needs to be ratified by the three additional members China, Korea and Japan. Experts are of the view that none of the three would seek a reversal of the decision.

According to director general of Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries Nagesh Kumar, the move was significant since it indicated Asean members openness to Indias inclusion in the proposed economic community. The summit, to be held in

Kuala Lumpur this year, is likely to become a regular event for executing the implementation of the future economic community.

The idea behind the Asean community is to establish a modified EU-style group of east Asian countries by 2020. Work towards this end is slated to begin next year. For India, its a great attraction since the country is not part of any major trading bloc and East Asia is its largest trading partner.

The importance is reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs speech at India-Asean business summit last October where he called for a doubling of trade between India and Asean to $30 billion by 2007.

Malaysias reluctance to include India in the East Asian summit was, however, seen as a big stumbling block. Commerce ministry sources said last minute intervention from Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam resulted in a decision being taken in Indias favour.

Dr Kumar said India satisfied all the three criteria laid down by Asean members to qualify for membership of the economic community. These include, substantial economic linkage between potential member and Asean + 3, full dialogue partnership with the Asean and relationship of amity and cooperation with members.