NEW DELHI: India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are working on ways to take forward their cooperation in the post-pandemic era, especially in smart agriculture, healthcare, renewable energy, digital inclusivity and fintech.
Ways to elevate cooperation between the two sides in these areas figured in the annual Asean-India foreign ministers’ meeting held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Thursday. The meeting was co-chaired by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.
The meeting also took forward discussions held at the special Asean-India foreign ministers’ meeting hosted by India in June to commemorate the 30th anniversary of relations between the two sides.
The meeting “deliberated on ways to elevate Asean-India cooperation in the post-pandemic era, including enhancing cooperation in areas of smart agriculture, healthcare, new and renewable energy, digital inclusivity and fintech”, the external affairs ministry said in a statement issued on Friday.
The ministers exchanged views on key regional and international issues and discussed preparations for the upcoming Asean-India Summit.
Addressing the meeting, Jaishankar appreciated the Cambodian chairship of Asean this year under the theme “Asean Act: Addressing challenges together” and highlighted the importance India places on the 0-nation grouping as an important pillar of regional, multilateral and global order.
He reiterated India’s support for Asean unity and centrality in a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. Pointing to the strong convergence between the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, he called for greater cooperation between the two sides in the Indo-Pacific.
During his visit to Cambodia, Jaishankar met Prime Minister Hun Sen and discussed bilateral and global issues. Statements issued by the Cambodian premier’s office said Hun Sen had called for the speedy conclusion of studies for trade and investment agreements.
The Asean-related ministerial meetings in Phnom Penh included the East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministers’ meeting and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting on Friday. Secretary (East) Saurabh Kumar of the external affairs ministry led the Indian delegation at these meetings.
The EAS meeting discussed ways to strengthen the platform to make it more responsive to emerging challenges. It also exchanged views on current regional and international developments and geo-political challenges, and reviewed preparations for a new EAS plan of action. Preparations for the upcoming EAS Summit scheduled for November were discussed.
The ARF meeting discussed regional and international issues and the future direction of the body. The meeting adopted the ARF Statement on Promoting Peace, Stability and Prosperity in the Region through Preventive Measures and the Statement on Supporting the Preservation of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.