ASEAN, Indian senior officials gather at online 22nd meeting

Senior officials of ASEAN countries and India agreed to enhance the two sides’ cooperation in various fields at their 22nd annual meeting held online on July 16.

Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung speaks at the 22nd ASEAN-India Senior Officials' Meeting on July 16 (Photo: VNA)
Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung speaks at the 22nd ASEAN-India Senior Officials' Meeting on July 16 (Photo: VNA)

Deputy Foreign Minister of India Vijay Thakur Singh said her country always attaches importance to ASEAN and supports the bloc’s central role in the regional architecture.

India also highly values Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship as well as effective guiding and coordinating capacity in promoting the bloc’s efforts to overcome COVID-19-induced difficulties and challenges and in devising suitable orientations for ASEAN cooperation and development in the current context, according to her.

At the meeting, ASEAN and India agreed to step up partnerships in economy, trade, investment, maritime cooperation, terrorism and transnational crime fight, science – technology, innovation, disaster prevention and mitigation, climate change response, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and development gap narrowing.

They concurred in making efforts to achieve 200 billion USD in bilateral trade by 2022.

Besides, ASEAN welcomed India’s credit package of 1 billion USD for bilateral connectivity projects, along with the country’s provision of 1,000 scholarships for PhD students from ASEAN countries.

Regarding COVID-19 response, India said it supports the use of the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund to assist projects on addressing pandemic aftermath, and that it will coordinate closely with ASEAN in developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines and medicine.

Meanwhile, ASEAN countries applauded India’s attainments in curbing COVID-19 and encouraged the country to support the bloc’s initiatives in settling pandemic aftermath, maintaining regional and global supply chains, and promoting sustainable recovery.

The two sides also agreed to continue assisting each other’s citizens affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Regarding international and regional issues, India provided ASEAN countries with detailed information about the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit in 2019, along with the situation of India-China relations.

The South Asian nation also emphasised that it welcomes ASEAN bringing into play its role in fostering cooperation, dialogue and trust building in the region, and it also supports efforts to seriously and fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and build an efficient and effective Code of Conduct in the waters in line with international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Representing Vietnam – Chair of ASEAN in 2020, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of the country’s ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting delegation, noted the bloc’s priorities and major cooperation directions in the “Cohesive and Responsive” spirit this year. He also highlighted the ASEAN Community’s proactive and active efforts to weather current difficulties and challenges.

He suggested ASEAN and India continue actively contributing to the building of an open, free, equal and rules-based multilateral trading system, facilitate trade and investment liberalisation, and encourage businesses to optimize the ASEAN-India free trade agreement so as to bolster bilateral trade and investment amid challenges facing the regional and global economy.

The deputy minister also affirmed that ASEAN countries attach importance to India’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.

They believe this deal will reflect the bloc and its partners’ strong commitment to economic liberalisation and connectivity and greatly help with recovery and efforts to overcome pandemic-induced challenges, he added.