Speaking at this historic event in ASEAN-India relations, representing Singapore as ASEAN Chair 2018, Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong elaborated on the way forward
Today we mark 25 years of relations between ASEAN and India, and five years of our strategic partnership. These milestones are an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and chart our way forward.
India’s ties with Southeast Asia go back far beyond 25 years. Our early interactions were driven by trade and commerce. Artefacts like glass beads and semi-precious stones from Southern India have been found in the Malay Peninsula which are dated as early as the fourth century BC.
Both sides also share deep cultural links. The Indian diaspora continues to play an important part in shaping our region and in ASEAN-India relations. About a fifth of the 31 million overseas Indians live in Southeast Asia and they have made major contributions in building institutions, national cultures, and identities in their respective countries.
This is why Singapore and other ASEAN Member States have supported India’s dialogue partnership and its entry into the East Asia Summit. We believe that India makes a major contribution to regional affairs, helping to keep the regional architecture open, balanced and inclusive.
There is much more we can do to take the ASEAN-India dialogue partnership forward.
One step we can take is to increase our trade and economic cooperation. There is significant potential for further growth. Southeast Asia and India represent a quarter of the world’s population – about 1.8 billion people – and a combined GDP of more than US$4.5 trillion. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement that is currently being negotiated by ASEAN, India and other partners. It represents a historic opportunity to establish the world’s largest trading bloc, which would enable our businesses to harness the region’s true potential. Expanding connectivity – air, land, maritime, and digital is also important for growth. It will reinforce business and people-to-people links between both sides and benefit both our peoples.
These are just some of the areas where we can develop our relationship and we look forward to exchanging ideas with PM Modi and fellow ASEAN Leaders during this plenary session to examine how we can strengthen the strategic partnership in the years to come.