| AB Vajpayee in Bali on Monday. (PTI)
Bali, Oct. 6: Common concerns about terrorism, a shared cultural tradition and opportunities to do business together were placed on the table today by India as it paraded itself as a reliable and viable partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“We are in the process of strengthening the contemporary relevance of our historical cultural links. We have political convergence and economic complementarities in a globalising world,” Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said.
Arriving here to attend the India-Asean Summit, Vajpayee said the upgradation of the dialogue with Asean to this level was recognition by both sides of this reality.
The fact that the Asean Summit is being held in Bali — the scene of one of the worst terrorist attacks in Asia — in itself is a significant gesture of solidarity Asean is showing with fellow member Indonesia. But that India, which has been the victim of terrorism for more than a decade, has decided to participate in the summit is a clear indication of Delhi’s intent to work closely with Southeast Asia.
China, Japan and Korea have been invited by Asean for summit-level talks, placing India in a distinguished club.
India and Asean will issue a joint declaration to combat terrorism. “We have to deal with the increasing spread of terrorism into the Southeast Asian region,” Vajpayee said.
It became evident from his statement that after the failure of the world trade negotiations in Cancun, India will emphasise on building strong ties with Southeast Asia. “We are all concerned about the fate of multilateralism in the modern world,” the Prime Minister said.
He pointed out that the “unsatisfactory progress on the Doha Development Agenda (at Cancun) affects Southeast Asia in the same way as it affects India”.
Vajpayee has had separate meetings with South Korean President Ro Moo-Hyuan and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pan Van Khai. Tomorrow, he will address an Asean business meeting and the day after hold summit talks with all members of the grouping.
Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha this evening outlined the broad parameters of what the Prime Minister is likely to highlight. Addressing an Indian evening organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Sinha spoke of an India with which Asean could do business. “It is a resurgent India in a resurgent Asia,” he said.
In an oblique reference to the financial crisis Southeast Asia faced about six years ago, Sinha cautioned that “we must learn from our past mistakes” to move forward.
Urging Asean to work closely with India on issues of mutual benefit, Sinha said that together the two sides could take advantage of the opportunities in a new world order. “But we have to bring ethics in business. In promoting co-operation with each other we don’t want to pursue the same policies that impeded our progress.”
The foreign minister called for introducing technology with a “human face” and to implement a new kind of capitalism that was “compassionate”.