Intervention of Ambassador of India to Thailand...
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Embassy of India
Bangkok
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Intervention of Ambassador at the ACD Ministerial Retreat
10 March, 2016

Mr. Chairman,

I thank you for giving me the Floor.

2. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Thailand for hosting this Ministerial meeting. I also thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation. I must also place on record our deep appreciation for the excellent arrangements that have been made.

3. At the outset, I also join others in welcoming Nepal to the ACD family, we are, indeed, very happy that our close friend and neighbor joins this forum.

Mr. Chairman,

4. The Asian Cooperation Dialogue is a mechanism that is nearly a decade and a half old. Much of the credit for nurturing this mechanism goes to Thailand. It is indeed appropriate for us to use this meeting to reaffirm our faith in the guiding principles of ACD as a top down, continuously evolving Forum for Leaders to informally exchange ideas and experiences. It is important, in our view, that the mechanism remain flexible and unshackled by rigid bureaucratic structures. Also important for us is the principle of respecting the comfort level of participants. While the ACD has undertaken some useful projects, it is primarily, as the name itself suggests, a forum for dialogue and discussions. This, in fact, is the essence and the greatest strength of the mechanism.

5. While on this subject, I must express the gratitude of my delegation to Kuwait for the support that they have provided to the ACD through the Provisional Secretariat.

6. The focus given to connectivity in this meeting is most appropriate. Connectivity is key to ensuring economic growth and prosperity for Asia and beyond. It also has implications for the security and stability of the continent. Given the absence of an agreed security architecture in Asia, it is important that the agenda of connectivity follow a consultative process. A shared vision of connectivity that brings in all stakeholders from the conception stage itself would ensure that we work together for mutual benefit and not get dragged into competitive postures. Connectivity should diffuse national rivalries, and not add to regional tensions.

7.   At the 13th India-ASEAN Summit held last November, our Prime Minister announced a line of credit of US $ 1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN. We would encourage ASEAN countries to avail of this line of credit as a source of funding for implementation of ACD connectivity initiatives under the rubric of “Transport and Telecommunication Infrastructure”. The line of credit can, in fact, be considered as a regional funding arrangement.

8. While discussing connectivity, mention should also be made of BBIN - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal - Motor Vehicles Agreement signed in July last year to allow for seamless movement of car and passenger vehicles between the participating countries. Another significant initiative under implementation is the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. A motor vehicle agreement between the three countries is also under discussion. Both these initiatives - the BBIN and the Trilateral Highway - would greatly enhance connectivity between South Asia and South East Asia and further the objectives of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue.

Mr. Chairman,

9. The quest for closer economic integration is a guiding force behind the Asia Project. As far as India is concerned, our efforts in this direction were initiated in the early 1990s with our Look-East policy, which focused on ASEAN. While looking further afield now, we have also enhanced the intensity with which we direct our efforts towards South East Asia. The shift is captured in our moving from a 'Look-East' Policy to an 'Act East' one. In this context, our Ministry of Commerce is in the process of establishing a Project Development Fund with a corpus of Indian Rs. 5 billion for catalyzing Indian investments in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. This would create more regional value chains and tie ups between micro, small and medium enterprises of the two regions and foster great regional economic integration.

Mr. Chairman,

10. I must also mention that the intangible is just as important if we note how strong our bonds and cultural connectivity are with the other countries of this continent. Important though it is, the idea of connectivity goes beyond mere physical and digital connections. It includes coordinating the regulatory, legal and institutional aspects as well. Most importantly it also covers people-to-people connectivity and the cross-cultural and civilizational heritage that connects the peoples of our region. We are, therefore, pleased with the prominence that is sought to be given to the priority pillar of tourism and culture.

11. In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I wish to reaffirm our full and complete commitment to the Asian Cooperation Dialogue process. We look forward to working with other member States for ensuring the continued relevance and utility of the ACD mechanism.

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