New Delhi: With a formal partnership with ASEAN now two decades old, India sees its ties with the 10-nation forum as a key component of its Look East policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, as he left for Bali and Singapore on a four-day visit Thursday.
The prime minister is scheduled to attend the 9th India-ASEAN Summit and the 6th East Asia Summit in the Indonesian island, and later proceed to Singapore on a two-day bilateral visit. He returns late Sunday.
The prime minister said the East Asia Summit was the principal forum to devise an "open and inclusive architecture of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region" that will now see the formal entry of US and Russia this year at the Bali Summit.
"Increasingly, political and security issues are becoming part of the East Asia Summit agenda. There are concerns among the countries of the region over issues relating to disaster management, maritime security, terrorism and other non-traditional threat to security," he said.
In Bali, Manmohan Singh also hoped to hold bilateral talks with his host and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, among other leaders.
He said New Delhi will host the India-ASEAN Summit for the first time next year to mark 20 years of dialogue partnership with the grouping that comprises Brunei, Combodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Stating that Singapore was a key partner for India, Manmohan Singh said: "India's Look East policy started with our engagement with Singapore and that country has been among strong advocates of greater cooperation between South East Asia and India."
He said Singapore was India's largest trading partner among ASEAN nations and that the country particularly shared strong ties due to the vast and vibrant Indian diaspora, a strong student community of Indians and large representation of India Inc there.
"Singapore was the first country with which we signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement in 2005. Currently, we are in the process of a second review of this agreement to make it work better for both of us," he said.
"I look forward to holding wide-ranging discussions with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other distinguished leaders of Singapore on deepening our economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people relations," he said.
The prime minister is also scheduled to unveil a bust of Jawaharlal Nehru there.
First Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 10:16