New Delhi: A week after the “gruesome and cowardly” Pulwama terror attack, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday urged the ASEAN members and the international community to support India’s fight against terrorists and terror organisations.
“I condemn the gruesome and cowardly terrorist attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 on our brave security forces. I stand with my fellow countrymen shoulder to shoulder in grief and stand in solidarity with the family members of the martyrs. The government is firmly and resolutely committed to take all necessary measures to safeguard national security. We are equally reserved to fight against the menace of terrorism,” Rajnath said during his Valedictory Address at the 4th India-ASEAN Expo & Summit here.
“We urge the international community and our friends from ASEAN present in this summit to support our fight against terrorists and terrorist organisations. An environment of peace and security are prerequisites for trade and commerce to flourish. This Summit must acknowledge the fact and ensure that the soil of any country should not be used for propagating terrorism,” he added.
The Home Minister further emphasised that there “exists immense potential to strengthen and deepen cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations violent extremism and radicalization through Information sharing, Law enforcement cooperation and capacity building and Anti-money laundering and countering terror-financing.”
Recalling the Delhi Declaration of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, which marked the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations, where it was agreed to deepen cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms, Rajnath said the 13th East Asia Summit (EAS) in November 2018 in Singapore, also adopted the EAS Statement on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Returnees and hoped that the cooperation between the member states will move beyond statements and towards more practical cooperation.
While talking about the trade potential between India and the ASEAN, Rajnath Singh said that more than half of India’s foreign trade now goes to the East. He further called for increased people-to-people contact, connectivity and trade ties with the ASEAN nations.
“Strengthening India’s economic relations with the countries in the East is one of the main objectives of India’s ‘Act East Policy’. Our engagement with ASEAN has acquired a new dimension with our Prime Minister’s vision to ‘Act East’,” he said.
Rajnath later underlined that trade and investment is a key aspect of India-ASEAN partnership. “Over the past decade, trade and investment relations between India and ASEAN have continued to improve.
Total bilateral trade has increased more than threefold from USD 21 billion in 2005-06 to USD 81.33 billion in 2017-18. ASEAN has emerged as the second largest trade partner of India in 2017-18, with a share of 10.58 per cent in India’s overall trade,” he said.
The Home Minister mentioned that the Indian government is currently working with ASEAN members on multiple connectivity projects – through land, water, and air.
“Exploring opportunities through connectivity projects will help India to remove physical impediments to trade with ASEAN countries and further integrate the two regions for better economic and security relations,” said Rajnath.
“While we have made some progress in implementing the India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway, the possible extension of the Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, needs to be pushed. ASEAN and India are also working on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project which will provide an alternative route through Myanmar for the transportation of goods to the northeast region of India,” he added.
Rajnath stated that the central government has given a boost to infrastructure in the North-East, India’s gateway to the ASEAN.
“The North East being the major land bridge to ASEAN nations, enhanced connectivity will also ensure the economic integration and development of North East region of India. India and Myanmar are also in the process of setting up Border Haats at their respective borders to facilitate trade and people-to-people connect. The ICP (Integrated Check-Post) at Moreh has also been opened in January, 2019,” he said.
Disaster Management is another area of cooperation between India and ASEAN, he shared.
“The cooperation between India and ASEAN region has instilled resilience while dealing with disaster and climate risks. This cooperation must be further enhanced through various available mechanisms. As we climb new heights of economic growth, it is extremely important to keep our people safe from the consequences of disasters and risks through the use of technology and development of comprehensive safety and security measures to this end,” the Home Minister said.
In the end, Rajnath said: “The year 2017 marked 25 years of ASEAN-India dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership. Celebrating 25 years of partnership, India and ASEAN are working towards a mutually beneficial engagement aimed at boosting prosperity for both.”
“ASEAN-India relations and our shared perspective towards facilitating bilateral and plurilateral arrangements stand out as a combined voice against the growing challenges in the region such as protectionism, climate change and terrorism,” he added.