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ASEAN ANALYSIS  26 October 2010

India moves closer to Asean

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     26 October 2010

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Currently Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on a three-nation visit to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam to further India’s political and economic goals in Asia. Note that two of the three countries he is visiting are Asean members and the third, Japan, is a major investor in a number of Asean countries.

The “Look East” initiative was developed during the 90s in the government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in which Singh was finance minister. In September, he will visit New York city for the UN General Assembly to further his Asian policies. Singh also will be at the eighth Asean-India summit in Hanoi next week.

Indian President Patil also paid a trip to Laos and Cambodia in September. Patil said that India’s relationship with the countries would expand and to help it along, India extended a credit line of $72.5 million for two power projects. In Cambodia a $15 million credit line was provided for a water development project.

Since the signing of India-Asean free trade agreement (FTA) in August 2009, India trade has gone from US$39.08 in 2007-2008 to $45.34 billion to in 2008-2009.

In Malaysia Singh returns the visit of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to New Delhi in January. The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between the two countries will now fall into place. Malaysia is also a potential investor in India in energy, oil refineries, telecoms, electrical equipment and infrastructure.

Former Indian diplomats to Asean countries suggest that more effort should be put into cementing India’s ties with Asean.

The potential is great. The India-Asean market comprises a combined population of almost 1.8 billion and gives Asean countries another option for political and economic alliance and even a democratic one.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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