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Monday, January 18, 2010

India's bridge to ASEAN

18 January 2010

As the Asia-led global economic recovery begins to take hold, the dynamics of 21st century economic relations are still changing, shifting and reshaping around the world.

Yet it is already clear that Asia will play an increasing role in the global economy, and India is poised for a long run among the regional and global leaders. Asia's economic strength, its largely sound banking systems, rapid growth and increasing domestic and regional consumer demand means that a significant portion of growth in 2010 will come from intra-Asian trade as much as from our traditional relations with Europe and North America.

India has already distinguished itself at the global level as a fast-growing and extremely well-managed economy, a leading member of the G-20, and a government that recognises the importance of inclusive growth for all. But India's own entrepreneurs and political leaders are increasingly finding that outside of their own domestic market, there is also abundant opportunity for India in the nearby 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

As a commercial and financial regional hub, an IT powerhouse, a tourist destination, and as a shipping and logistics staging point with exceptional connectivity, there can be no better gateway for India to the prospering ASEAN market than Malaysia.

This is why i am committed to working with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to improve and strengthen our trade and investment ties, as well as to furthering cooperation on issues important to both India and Malaysia, ranging from the position of developing countries on world trade talks to the search for a fair and just solution to the difficult issue of climate change.

A natural partnership between India and Malaysia already exists, with shared cultural bonds and a commitment to democracy and social equity. India and Malaysia, however, also have serious and deepening business ties.

Last year India was the ninth biggest investor in Malaysia, and annual export-import numbers show a trade volume between our two countries in excess of $10 billion. But India and Malaysia can do even more together.

The trade and investment possibilities on both sides are quite exciting. For example, we have constructed an airport in Hyderabad, and many highways in India, and we wish to offer our technology and know-how in building more infrastructure in India, from highways to airports, ports and logistics. Malaysians are good builders and India provides a wonderful opportunity for us to participate in the infrastructure sector.

Equally, in the field of IT we can strengthen ties in terms of software development. India is also a big buyer of Malaysian palm oil, and i hope we can continue to grow our trade in this important agricultural product.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, India can enjoy the benefits of an efficient financial and logistics centre as well as new and attractive tax incentives and an open door policy in our special economic zone, Iskandar, an area three times the size of neighbouring Singapore with state-of-the-art connectivity.

With the ASEAN market of 600 million people in the heart of South East Asia, Malaysia is also the ideal business platform for this rapidly growing region. India is already part of the ASEAN process, and we look forward to strengthening that integration still further in the course of 2010.

It is against this global and regional Asian backdrop that our two nations can cooperate in several areas. India's 8 or 9 per cent prospective growth in the next few years, together with Malaysia's 5 per cent GDP growth prospects, and our location at the heart of ASEAN, mean that together we can forge a healthy and mutually prosperous partnership for our peoples and our companies.

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