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New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 25, 2018, hailed the article by ASEAN Chair Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong. PM Modi said, “A wonderful article by ASEAN Chair Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong. It beautifully covers the rich history, robust cooperation and promising future of India-ASEAN relations.”

The Visiting Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong in an op-ed titled, “Revive a millennial partnership: Singapore has played a major role in India’s closer integration with ASEAN” published in the Times of India on January 25 writes that the age old trade, commerce and cultural linkages between India and ASEAN have played a major role in giving a boost to the ties.

He writes that as we commemorate 25 years of ASEAN -India relations, India’s ties with southeast Asia date back more than 2,000 years. Ancient trade between India and countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand is well-documented. Southeast Asian cultures, traditions and languages have been profoundly influenced by these early linkages. We see Indic Hindu-Buddhist influences in historical sites such as the Angkor Temple Complex near Siem Reap in Cambodia, the Borobudor and Prambanan temples near Yogyakarta in Indonesia, and the ancient candis in Kedah in Malaysia. The Ramayana is embedded in many southeast Asian cultures, including in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. Singapore’s Malay name is Singapura, derived from Sanskrit and meaning ‘lion city’.

The visiting premier says that Singapore has always advocated India’s inclusion in the ASEAN community. India became an ASEAN Sectoral Dialogue Partner in 1992, a full ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 1995, and participated in the East Asia Summits (EAS) from 2005.  He adds that ASEAN-India relations were further elevated to a strategic partner­ship in 2012, the 20th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy and 3-C (Commerce, Connectivity, Culture) formula for strengthening engagement with ASEAN speaks of our broad-based cooperation.

Talking about the tare and commerce ties, he writes that with the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), ASEAN-India trade has risen steadily from $2.9 billion in 1993 to $58.4 billion in 2016. To mark this Silver Jubilee of ASEAN-India relations, both sides have held many commemorative activities. ASEAN leaders are also deeply honoured to be invited as chief guests at 69th Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2018.

Lee Hsien Loong underlines the importance and strength of ASEAN and India’s combined population of 1.8 billion which represents one quarter of the world’s population. According to him, by 2025, India’s consumer market is expected to become the fifth largest in the world, while in southeast Asia middle-class house­holds will double to 163 million. Both regions are also experiencing a demographic dividend – 60% of ASEAN’s population is below 35 years old, while India is projected to be the world’s youngest country with an average age of 29 by 2020.

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