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PM moots Asian economic group
Japan says yes, visualises it as ‘Arc of Prosperity’
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Vientiane (Laos), November 29
Japan has evinced keen interest in forging an “Asian Economic Community” (AEC) mooted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having its own “Arc of Advantage” to counter the West’s categorisation of this continent as an “Arc of Instability.”

The proposal fired the imagination of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who visualised it as an “Arc of Prosperity” blazing its trail from the East to the West. Both leaders during a bilateral on the sidelines of the Asean Summit and on the eve of the third Asean-India summit called for discussing the idea at the experts level besides giving an added push to India-Japan economic cooperation.

Dr Singh and Mr Koizumi agreed to constitute a multidisciplinary experts group reflecting all interests for enlarging the entire gamut of India-Japan economic and commercial ties encompassing projects, investments and utilisation of funds.

Even as the Japanese Prime Minister noted that India’s economy was attracting the world’s attention, Dr Singh thanked Japan for its generous development assistance in the core sectors of India’s economy. In this context, Mr Koizumi was apprised about the Delhi metro doing very well and that Japan’s presence must be felt through more high visibility projects all over India. The Japanese Prime Minister responded positively.

Prior to his interface with Mr Koizumi, Dr Singh had called on President of Laos Khamtay Siphandone and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong. Both leaders expressed satisfaction that the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was close to being clinched by early next year.

The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the G-4 decision taken in New York in September (comprising Japan, India, Germany and Brazil) to work in concert for revamping the United Nations as well as supporting each other’s candidature for a seat in the UN Security Council.

Emphasising that Singapore had a very special place in India’s priorities, Dr Singh thanked Mr Lee for his country’s facilitation in ensuring New Delhi’s engagement with Asean. On its part Singapore sees a huge role for India in East Asia as no fewer than 1400 Indian companies have their regional headquarters in his country, Secretary (East) in the ministry of external affairs Rajiv Sikri said briefing mediapersons after Dr Singh’s three bilaterals spread during the day.

Responding to questions, Commerce Secretary S N Menon disclosed that differences on the Early Harvest programme between India and Singapore had been resolved coupled with the finalisation of the Interim Rules of Origin with Asean.

In his discussions with host President Siphandone, Dr Singh’s conveyed India’s appreciation of the role played by Laos as the country coordinator for India in the Asean grouping. Laos is also the current Chairperson of Southeast Asian grouping.

Dr Singh assured Mr Siphandone that India would continue to engage Laos and if it listed lists out the priority projects India would readily work on them.

Answering questions, Mr Sikri said India enjoyed its own place in Asia. India now has a regular summit with Asean and is not excluded from the regional dialogue.

Tomorrow, the first high level contact between India and China will take place after the Congress-led UPA government assumed office in New Delhi. Dr Singh will have a one-on-one with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Before leaving for Laos, Dr Singh had said that he was looking forward to meeting Mr Wen for furthering Sino-Indian relations. Beijing has been positive about the upcoming meeting with Dr Singh in the backdrop of progress having been achieved in the fourth round of talks on the vexed border question earlier this month between the two countries.

The first Asean-India car rally reaches here tomorrow coinciding with the Third Asean-India summit. The Prime Minister had flagged off the rally in Guwahati on November 22. The rally will be again flagged off tomorrow by all the Heads of State or Government on its final leg to Indonesia.


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