Kuala Lumpur/New Delhi (IANS) India and ASEAN have made considerable progress in enhancing connectivity cooperation, including beginning negotiations on an India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicles Agreement and an ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement.
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. (retd) V.K. Singh, in a statement following interventions by ASEAN ministers at the Fifth East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said both sides agreed to set up an ASEAN-India Civil Aviation Task Force to oversee optimisation of air connectivity in all its dimensions.
“Our civil aviation experts should find ways to complete the unutilised 18 sectors connecting Tier II and Tier III cities in India to tourist and business destinations in ASEAN,” he said.
He said following up on the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit in Nay Pyi Taw in November 2014, “we are working out modalities for setting up a special facility to promote connectivity projects in ASEAN and will seek active support of your governments in partnering this initiative”.
“As part of our digital connectivity initiatives, we are exploring the setting up of information highways or i-ways between India and ASEAN.”
He said “we are happy to learn that following the completion of requisite domestic procedures, the ASEAN-India Trade-in-Services and Investment Agreements have come into force on July 1 for India, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and the Trade-in-Services Agreement for Vietnam.
“Laos has also completed the ratification process for the Trade-in-Services Agreement which will come into force on September 15, 2015. I would request colleagues from the remaining countries to also kindly ensure early completion of their respective ratification processes.”
He said the economic and trade ministers had a very productive meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) in Kuala Lumpur in July, and will be meeting again later this month.
“Parties to the RCEP showed considerable flexibility in negotiations during the Kuala Lumpur ministerial and the modalities for the Services and Investment Agreements have been agreed upon.
“We hope that we can also find convergence on modalities for the Trade-in-Goods Agreement very soon. This will enable us to conclude substantive negotiations on the agreement by the end of the year,” he said.
The economic ministers have agreed to revive the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) to undertake a comprehensive review of the ASEAN-India Trade-in-Goods Agreement signed in 2010.
They will be discussing the Terms of Reference for the TNC at their forthcoming meeting later this month, he said.