India, ASEAN Seek Greater Financial, Economic Cooperation

Anjana Pasricha

Officials of India and from the Association of South East Asian Nations say Asian countries should strengthen regional financial and economic links, to offset the impact of the global financial crisis. They are holding a two-day meeting in New Delhi.      

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is calling on Asian nations to develop their own model of "inclusive economic growth," at a time when the market-based capitalism of the West is under a cloud.

"Asia holds the bulk of world's savings and Asians show one of the world's best savings rate… I believe that our inter linkages provides the basis of exploring the possibility of a regional financial arrangement which will mitigate the growing risks from the current negative economic outlook," he said.

Delhi Dialogue seeks ways to boost trade links

Mr. Mukherjee was addressing a two-day conference between India and ASEAN which opened Wednesday.  The meeting - called the "Delhi Dialogue" - is exploring ways to boost trade links between South Asia's largest economy and Southeast Asian nations.  

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan says Asia has been impacted less by the global financial meltdown than the rest of the world and has the potential to emerge as a vehicle of growth.

He says India, East Asia and Southeast Asia need to work together to find a solution to the global economic crisis.

"We are standing at the threshold of another era of history, when the entire world is being confronted with economic difficulties in the forms of financial turmoil and, right now, real economic difficulties everywhere, a relatively bright spot is in our part of the world… we can create one of the largest economic and business landscapes in the global community," he said.

Both India and ASEAN are calling for development of more road, rail and air links to connect industrial centers through the region.  In 2007, trade between India and ASEAN grew by 30 percent, to $38 billion. This is expected to get a further boost when the two sides sign a free-trade agreement, next month.  

Enhanced cooperation will serve both sides

ASEAN head Pitsuwan says enhanced cooperation between India and Southeast Asian countries - which together have a population 1.7 billion people, will serve both sides.

"India is attractive to us in the East, because of your vibrant, dynamic economy, because of your open economy, because of your service and high technology industry, because of your connectivity to the West, to Western Asia, to Central Asia, well into Europe. Through the ASEAN, India can expect to be connected with the vibrancy of the economies of East Asia," said Pitsuwan.
India's biggest trading partners have traditionally been Europe and the United States.  However, in recent years, India has sought to increase business and trade ties with East Asia as part of what it calls its "Look East" policy.

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