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India-ASEAN maritime cooperation will set tone for future of Indo-Pacific: V K Singh

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New Delhi, Jul 19:  Describing maritime cooperation as a critical cog in India-ASEAN ties, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said today it will set the tone for the future of the Indo-Pacific and help ensure peace and stability in the strategic region.

Speaking at a plenary session of the Delhi Dialogue themed ‘Strengthening ASEAN-India maritime cooperation’ and organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Singh India’s new Act East policy was more “action-driven and result-oriented” which distinguishes it from the previous Look East policy.

Referring to the India-ASEAN maritime cooperation, Singh said: “We strongly believe that it is the idea of this cooperation that will set the tone for future of Indo-Pacific region. It will have all the keys to unlock the prosperity for the common good and goals for our people and provide us with the seas that are safe, secure and free for all.”

India shares a robust maritime cooperation with several ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. In May, India and Indonesia unveiled a ‘Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific’ and resolved to boost maritime cooperation.

Noting that ASEAN lies at the heart of India’s Indo-Pacific policy, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “We will work to retain ASEAN centrality and ASEAN’s unity in the regional architecture that follows an open, inclusive and a rules-based order.”

Singh noted the Act East policy is wider in scope geographically and covers the entire Asia-Pacific region while keeping ASEAN at the core of the policy.

The development of India’s northeastern region is a priority for the government and the Act East policy is not just a progression, but it is a leap forward from the Look East policy that was followed until now, the minister asserted.

“The focus of Act East policy is beyond economic integration and includes political and socio-cultural dialogue at a deeper level. We are looking at a new paradigm of development where foreign policy initiatives blend,” he said.

The plenary session was attended by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla and Deputy Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Chowna Mein.

Noting that inclusive development of the northeast tops the government’s priority, Singh said the northeast region is a land-bridge at the confluence of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia.

“The government has been allocating suitable funds for the northeast and a lot of innovative arrangements have been made to ensure that the lacuna we found before 2014 in the development of the northeast are taken care of,” Singh said.

He added that the government is looking at the completion of the strategic Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Corridor Project connecting India and Myanmar and enhancing the air-connectivity in the region.

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