India, ASEAN have opportunities for perpetual cooperation: Modi

21 Nov 2015


Prime Minister Narendra Modi India is on a long road to transformation and the scale of transformation and the size of economic opportunities the transformation provides are huge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the ASEAN-India summit in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur today.

India now offers an environment that is open and welcoming, which is reflected in the sharp jump in India's ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business, he said, adding that it is continuing with the ongoing reforms that are both quick and bold.

India is today the fastest-growing major economy in the world, with an annual growth rate touching 7.5 per cent, that is likely to go higher.

"Our inflation is down as is our fiscal and external deficits. And, business and international confidence has increased sharply," he said.

Besides, he said, the entry into force of India-ASEAN Trade in Services and Investment Agreements in July 2015 has been a major step forward.

He said India looked forward to progress in negotiations for a balanced and ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that covers goods and services as well as investments.

''We also intend to set up an ASEAN-India Innovation Platform to facilitate commercialization of low cost technologies, technology transfer and collaborative R&D projects,'' he said.

''Our cooperative project in space, to be located in Vietnam, is now making concrete progress. I assure you of its early completion,'' Modi said.

India, he said, also offers ASEAN its indigenously developed GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation or GAGAN services, which provide advanced navigation and location assistance and information facilities.

He also proposed increased cooperation in sustainable development of ocean or 'Blue Economy.' This, he said, will be an increasingly important driver of the future economy, and a source of food security, medicines and clean energy.

India has already entered into collaboration with a number of ocean states.

He also pointed to the need for research and innovation efforts to cover a range of common challenges – massive urbanisation and mega cities; skills for the future; food security; water; and, affordable healthcare.

On the issue of global concern of climate change, he said, India has ambitious clean energy plans - 175 GW of additional capacity of renewable energy by 2022; and, 40 per cent of energy through non-fossil fuel by 2030.

Modi offered over 100 training slots to ASEAN nationals in renewable energy in Indian institutions.

He also proposed an international solar alliance of 122 solar-rich countries, which he will launch with French President Hollande in Paris on 30 November. ''We look forward to your participation in the launch of the alliance,'' he added.

He pointed to the need for connectivity, which is the pathway to shared prosperity. In this context. Modi said, the Trilateral Highway project is making good progress and should be completed by 2018.

He also committed a Line of Credit of $1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN.

''As in the past, we place special emphasis on our partnership with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

''Our partnership with them in capacity building projects will expand. In addition, we intend to create a Project Development Fund to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries.

He also proposed to enlarge the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from the current $1 million to $5 million.

India's trade with the ASEAN countries increased to about $76.5 billion in 2014-15 while investment in both directions have also gone up. ASEAN remains the largest investment partner – both for inward and outward flows, Modi said.

He said despite a temporary decline in India's trade with ASEAN, the progress in the framework of cooperation has helped to reverse the temporary blip.

However, he said, much of the potential for economic partnership remains untapped, and expressed confidence that bilateral trade and investment will expand, as economies grow.

ASEAN, he said, is providing both inspiration and leadership for regional cooperation and integration. And, from India's perspective, ASEAN values and leadership will remain central to integration across Asia and Pacific, he added.

He also reminded leaders of the multiple global challenges - economic uncertainties, political turmoil and security threats.

Later, addressing ASEAN business leaders, the prime minister said India is committed to continued economic reforms. Economic reform is not an end in itself, he said.

''Reform for me is just a way station on the long journey to the destination. The destination is the transformation of India. We have to take the fruits of development to the margins of our geography and to the bottom of our demography. We have to touch lives, while reaching for the sky.

He said, "By almost every major economic indicator, India is doing better than when we took office 18 months ago.

  • GDP growth is up and inflation is down
  • Foreign investment is up and the Current Account Deficit is down
  • Tax revenues are up and interest rates are down.
  • The fiscal deficit is down and the rupee is stable.

"Obviously, this did not happen by accident. And the world economy is not exactly doing well. This success is the result of a series of concerted policies. We have embarked on a course of fiscal consolidation. We have entered, for the first time, into a monetary framework agreement with the Reserve Bank to curb inflation.

"Even while cutting the fiscal deficit, we have substantially increased productive public investment. This has been made possible in two ways. Firstly, we have imposed carbon taxes on fossil fuels.

"We have taken the bold step of de-controlling diesel prices and thereby eliminated energy subsidies, and have in fact imposed taxes on fossil fuels. We have increased the cess on coal by 300 per cent. Globally, there is much talk of carbon taxes. We have actually acted. Secondly, we have reduced wasteful expenditure through innovative methods including targeting subsidies to the deserving through technology.

"Overall, there is increased confidence within and outside the country. The IMF and World Bank have expressed even better hope for our economy this year and after.

The Economist magazine this week stated that ''India is in healthier shape than any other big emerging economy.''

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