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India remains valued partner of ASEAN: Director-General ASEAN Dept in Laos Foreign Ministry

Logo of the ASEAN bloc (Photo: ANI)

As the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) continues to grow in strength, India, too remains a valued partner for the economic union.

Speaking to ANI in the Laos Capital Vientiane, the Director General of the ASEAN department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR), Chatoulong Bouasisavath said that India is a valued partner of ASEAN.

“India is a valued partner of ASEAN…India understands ASEAN and has been helping in the ASEAN region..there is also a proposal this year on digitalisation put up by India which when adopted will further cement this India-ASEAN relationship,” he said.

ASEAN is a political and economic union of 10 countries in Southeast Asia.

After the announcement on real time payments linkage system between India and Singapore, India announced that it is working with Malaysia and other ASEAN countries to operationalize it for more countries in the region.

“ASEAN states have various digital payment systems, we are working towards the integration of this…the proposed document on digitalisation and digital connectivity put forward by India will lay the foundation for further cooperation on this sphere,” Bouasisavath said.

“If we can achieve an integrated payment system, it will become easier for tourists who come from India or those who go there as they can use an app for payment,” he further said.

One of the key factors for the ASEAN bloc is the volatile situation in Myanmar.

The country has seen a spurt in militant activity and a five-point programme suggested by ASEAN is being worked on to address the situation. ASEAN also acknowledged the role of India in maintaining stability in the region.

“We are moving along with the five-point programme in Myanmar and we have also appointed a special envoy to the region. The special envoy is accountable to the foreign ministry…and we are engaged with many stakeholders in Myanmar,” said Bouasisavath.

Noting that India as a neighbor of Myanmar has a very important role to play, the Laos official stated that “keeping contact with the Indian side is very important for ASEAN and Laos as the Chair.”

The ASEAN bloc also remains hopeful that India will rethink its position on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

On the possibility of getting India back to the Regional Economic Trade Agreement RCEP, the DG said, “The doors are not closed for India and we are still hopeful that India will see value in the agreement.”

The RCEP is a free trade agreement among the Asia-Pacific countries of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

This year, India celebrates a decade of its ‘Act East’ Policy, keeping ASEAN as its central pillar of the policy.

India has reiterated its full support for ASEAN Centrality, ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), and Lao PDR’s ASEAN Chairmanship’s priorities and deliverables under their theme “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience.”

In September last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Indonesia to attend the 20th ASEAN-India Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit (EAS).

It was the first Summit since the elevation of ties between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations bloc of countries to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2022.