‘Asean-India connectivity plan has progressed at a snail’s pace’

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018

Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be signed in 2016, says Asean Secretary General

The multi-billion dollar ambitious connectivity plan between India and Asean needs to be expedited, says Le Luong Minh, Secretary General, Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). In an interview with BusinessLine, he also stressed on the need to commence formal talks for the Asean-India Air Services Agreement. Excerpts:

What is the reason for the India-Asean services pact not taking off despite the robust trading relations?

This is because the pact on services has to be ratified by some of the countries. I hope that will happen soon and make the entire trade agreement complete. India is already our major trading partner. The Asean Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) and the AEC Blueprint provide a valuable framework to foster trade in services.

Conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks is also facing further delays. The earlier deadline was 2015, but now it seems that it has again shifted to 2016?

Well the modalities have been completed. Technical negotiations will now take place. It will be signed by 2016 most definitely. I would like to see India and all other participating countries to be more active and forward looking. But all substantive issues have been now discussed, only the technical part is left. Asean and India can work together to intensify the efforts towards the successful conclusion of the RCEP Agreement, as mandated by the leaders.

In your address you said resources are becoming a constraint for the India-Asean multi-billion dollar connectivity plans?

Yes because what we are doing is immense and what we have is limited. There is a need to mobilise resources partly through public-private partnership. Private sector participation is required and they need to come forward. The implementation has been at a snail’s pace.

What about air connectivity?

Formal discussions on the Asean-India Air Services Agreement have not started though the agreement between leaders was concluded five years ago. Asean and India should accelerate the implementation of the connectivity projects to further enhance the Asean-India Strategic Partnership.

How can the trade potential between India and the Asean be realised?

The entry-into-force of the Asean-India trade in services and investment agreements in July 2015 will further serve as catalysts to deepen and broaden our scope in trade.

Do you think India is effectively implementing the ‘Look East’ policy?

Asean and India need to continue to harness their untapped potential to give further substance to the Strategic Partnership that will soon enter its fourth year.

Published on December 11, 2015

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