A conference titled India-ASEAN Partnership@25 was held on 13th December at the Taj Mansingh. The event was organized by Kalinga International Foundation (KIF), a think tank that brings together the east and north-eastern region of India with our neighbors, the ASEAN states and the wider Indo-Pacific region. Chief Guest, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, joined the event at Chief Guest.
There were five thematic sessions that included the inaugural and valedictory,with the participation of distinguished scholars, former diplomats and ambassadors of the ASEAN states. The inaugural session called the India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership and the Act East Policy was followed by a session on Economic Co-operation with ASEAN, Regional and Bilateral Co-operation, Security Challenges, and The Importance of the North East and Eastern Region of India for the Act East Policy. Pradhan spoke of Odisha’s deep interactions seeped in history with South-East Asia.
“Our interactions over centuries have extended beyond Indonesia to includeexpressions of shared heritage and culture that are dotted across the region and findexpression in strands of everyday life of the people. Historically and culturally,the links between India and South-East Asia have been deep and profound,” Pradhan said.
“India embarked on the policy of ‘Look East’ for a long time. However, ourPM, has given further impetus by initiating the policy of ‘Act East’, to galvaniserelations with the economically vibrant ASEAN region. The upgrade from the LookEast to Act East policy, with the ASEAN at the core, was among the earliestinitiatives of the Modi government,” he added.
Guest of Honour, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North-Eastern Region, touched upon practical initiatives for overall economic development of the North-East and its economic integration with the larger region. Specific sectorsthat he mentioned were tourism, cross-border trade facilitation, connectivity, start-up. He emphasised the importance of north-east an an important engine of future growth for India. The inaugural session was attended by the ambassadors of Philippines to IndiaHer excellency Teresita C. Daza and Vietnam to IndiaHis excellency Ton SinhThanh,.
Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary of India and the Chairman of KIF, said that KIF’s mandate is the entire spectrum of foreign policy and security issues but its focus is on two critical geographies, the North-East and the Eastern region of India and the eastern and south-eastern periphery of India. Paraphrasing Rabindranath Tagore who invited people from from across the oceans to congregate on the shores of India and celebrate their humanity, Mansingh said that it is in this spirit that Prime Minister Modi has invited the 10 heads of State and governments of ASEAN countries as Guests of Honour for India’s Republic Day next month. Calling Pradhan “a true Kalinga personality” he thanked him for making “millions of the poorest homelands in India glow with energy”.