Khurshid heads to Brunei for ASEAN meetings

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid leaves for Brunei Sunday to attend three key meetings with ASEAN as relations with the 10-member bloc are a key part of India’s Look East policy and bilateral trade is slated to touch $100 billion in two years.

In Brunei, Khurshid will attend the 11th India-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. He will also participate in the third East Asia Summit Ministerial Meeting of foreign ministers and the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum meeting July 1 and 2.

As part of efforts to deepen its cooperation with ASEAN, India last week launched the ASEAN India Centre in New Delhi.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Partnership with the ASEAN countries constitutes the “core” of India’s Look East policy with the combined population of India and the major Southeast Asian bloc working out to 1.8 billion, around one-fourth of the global population, and the combined GDP of the region being around $3 trillion, Khurshid had said at the launch of the centre.

India has 25 mechanisms that underscore its interaction with the ASEAN, including six at the ministerial level – on foreign affairs, trade, agriculture, tourism, environment, and new and renewable energy.

India is also an active participant in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between ASEAN and its Free Trade Agreement Partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

During the East Asia Summit ministerial meeting, Khurshid would inform the participants of the progress made on the Nalanda University that is coming up in Rajgir, Bihar, on the lines of the ancient university.

Brunei, the chair of the meet, has proposed two new initiatives – on food security and setting up a Track-2 study group.

Khurshid is expected to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts from China, Bangladesh, Australia, Indonesia and Brunei on the sidelines of the East Asia ministerial meeting.

The minister travels to Singapore July 3 and 4 for a bilateral meeting – his first such visit to Singapore.

In Singapore, he will also participate and chair the regional meeting of Indian Heads of Mission in the ASEAN as well as the Pacific and East Asia. India’s Heads of Mission from ASEAN countries as well as from Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand would be attending the meet, a ministry of external affairs spokesperson said.

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