As India-ASEAN cooperation grew in the last 25 years, new facets and domains emerged for collaboration, he said

Noting that India’s ties with the ASEAN were rooted in history, geography and culture, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that the country’s Act East policy had drawn India more comprehensively into the Indo-Pacific region.

“India’s ties with the ASEAN are rooted in history, geography and culture. What has energized them in recent years is a growing awareness of the potential they hold for our mutual interests and development,” Jaishankar said in his remarks at the inaugural session of the India ASEAN Business Summit.

“As our cooperation grew in the course of the last 25 years, new facets and domains emerged for collaboration,” he stated.

Pointing out that connectivity and security were among the more notable of the later additions to India-ASEAN collaboration, the EAM said as a result, India's Look East policy matured into an Act East one. Its success was reflected in drawing India more comprehensively into the Indo-Pacific, he added.

“There is no doubt that the ASEAN is one of the major hubs for India’s global economic engagement,” he remarked.

Stating that the pandemic provides the backdrop for how most countries approach both their economic policies and their global outlook now, Jaishankar said it had disrupted our supply chains, impacted our manufacturing, affected our trade and veritably ruined many services sectors.

He mentioned that four areas had come into sharp focus for international business cooperation viz. resilient and reliable supply chains; health security; digital for development and green and sustainable recovery and that the four areas should constitute the core agenda for India-ASEAN partnership.

Referring to being tasked with responding to immediate repercussions even as we are compelled to plan for the future, Jaishankar said a large part of the answers – both short term and beyond – lies in diversification, expansion and transparency.

“De-risking our national economies will only be possible if we achieve a strong measure of success quickly in that regard,” he reckoned.

Noting that Covid-19 had brought out many inadequacies in the global health system, Jaishankar said, meaningful partnerships, sharing of advanced technologies, collaboration in vaccine and pharmaceutical production, capacity building and transparency in health information wee all part of the answers.

Informing that India had succeeded in developing the world’s first DNA vaccine for COVID-19 and another mRNA vaccine is in the final stages, as also a nasal vaccine, he said India’s global collaborations had enabled the country to emerge as a major vaccine production centre for the world.

“In fact, we have also seen innovative methods of collaboration, including an initiative agreed upon by the Quad countries. This could have significant benefits for nations of the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar stated.

Pointing out that the compulsions of the COVID era had made everyone much more digital, he said the strengthening of digital connectivity both with ASEAN and in the larger Indo-Pacific, therefore, acquired even greater importance.

On its part, India can offer science and technology-based innovations to help the region as the scale and cost of our solutions are indeed very attractive, Jaishankar suggested.

He said Covid-19 had also given an additional impetus to the diversification of the global value chain that was already in progress.

According to the Minister, India’s campaign for an Atmanirbhar Bharat or a self-reliant India resonated with the quest to become a democratic and trustworthy partner for global industrial resiliency.

At the same time, we need to take full advantage of building back better by ensuring a greener economic recovery, he added.

Informing that India had a strong record on climate action and has an ambitious vision, including for renewables and green hydrogen, Jaishankar said cooperating more closely on Sustainable Development also lies at the heart of the collaboration on Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI) and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP).

Observing that significant socio-economic changes were underway in our larger region, he said, the COVID pandemic has clearly accelerated them.

The centrality of ASEAN to the Indo-Pacific and the importance of India-ASEAN relations are self-evident, Jaishankar said.

But if they have to continue to be salient, then we must strive to go beyond ideas and concepts that have outlived their shelf life, he stressed.