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India’s ties with Japan, ASEAN steadily improving
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 27
India is vigorously pursuing its “Look East” policy to forge closer ties with Japan and ASEAN for mutual benefit and the 16-year-old policy is paying rich dividends.

This was stated by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, who addressed the Parliamentary Consultative Committee today on India’s “Look East” policy, including relations with Japan.

In his opening statement, Mukherjee said India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) was an outcome of the changed global political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalisation.

ASEAN provides a land bridge for India to connect with the Asia-Pacific. India and ASEAN had a convergence of interests in the security sphere also. The India-ASEAN relationship had steadily progressed since the policy was initiated in 1991 from sectoral dialogue partners to full dialogue partnership. The political level interactions at the Summit level that began in 2002 had been steadily strengthened through multi-faceted diplomatic interaction. Other than ASEAN, another significant pillar of our “Look East” policy is BIMSTEC. The Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) is another initiative that brings together India and five ASEAN countries -- Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. India has also been made a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS), a new international organisation set up about two years ago for putting on fast track all-round cooperation among such important states as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India. On India’s relations with Japan, Mukherjee told the committee that the Indo-Japan ties witnessed a transformation following the landmark visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December 2006. The two Prime Ministers established an India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership that provides a vision for charting the future course of bilateral relations.

Mukherjee himself visited Japan (March 22-23 last), during which he held the first high- level strategic dialogue with his Japanese counterpart. The two countries were having joint collaborations in a big way on important projects in the economic field, including the Dedicated Freight Corridors Project and Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Initiative. The two countries had also begun negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, Mukherjee informed the committee.

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