India and the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) today successfully concluded negotiations on a free trade agreement in services trade and investments as the two sides celebrated 20 years of dialogue partnership and 10 years of annual summits.
''The conclusion of negotiations for the FTA in services and investments coincides the India-Asean commemorative summit, which represents a milestone in mutual relations,'' Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while addressing the plenary of a commemorative summit in New Delhi.
India and Asean also will intensify engagement for maritime security and safety, for freedom of navigation and for peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law. The two sides already cooperate in counter piracy measures and in responses to natural disasters.
''We see our partnership with Asean not merely as a reaffirmation of ties with neighbouring countries or as an instrument of economic development, but also as an integral part of our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Asia and its surrounding Indian Ocean and Pacific regions,'' he said.
''Given that together we constitute a community of 1.8 billion people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion, it is only natural that India should attach the highest priority to its relationship with Asean,'' Manmohan pointed out.
The prime minister said India-Asean trade has grown over ten times in the 10 years since the launch of the annual summits. Following the implementation of the FTA in goods, trade grew 41 per cent in fiscal year 2011-12. Two-way investment flows have also grown rapidly to reach $43 billion over the past decade.