India and the 10-member ASEAN on finalised a free trade agreement
Strengthening ties, India and ASEAN also elevated their dialogue partnership to a strategic level.
Following implementation of FTA in goods last year, both the sides were engaged intensely to widen the base of the pact by including services, an area of key interest to India, and investments.
"I am optimistic that our trade will exceed USD 100 billion by 2015 and we should aim for the milestone of USD 200 billion 10 years from now," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.
He said that the summit "today coincides with the conclusion of negotiations for the FTA in services and investments. I am confident it will boost our economic ties in much the same way the FTA in goods has done".
The free trade pact after its implementation is expected to facilitate temporary movement of business people, including contractual service suppliers and independent professionals in accounting, architecture, engineering services, medical and dental, nursing and pharmacy, computer services and management consulting.
India, whose services sector contributes about 55 per cent in the country's economic growth, was very keen to enter the ASEAN market.
The pact would also help Indian companies to increase their investment in the ASEAN countries in various sectors like infrastructure.
"Together we constitute a community of 1.8 billion people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of USD 3.8 trillion. It is only natural that India should attach the highest priority to its relationship with ASEAN," Singh said.
"This engagement has flourished particularly in the area of trade. India-ASEAN trade has grown over 10 times in the 10 years since we launched the annual summits. Following the implementation of our FTA in goods, trade grew by 41 per cent in 2011-12. Two-way flows in investments have also grown rapidly to reach USD 43 billion over the past decade," Singh said.
He said that as ASEAN investments into India have multiplied, ASEAN countries too have emerged as major destinations for Indian companies.
"From energy resources to farm products, from materials to machinery, and from electronics to information technology, Indian and ASEAN companies are forging new partnerships of trade and investment," he said.
He stressed that besides trade, the India-ASEAN engagement become increasingly strategic in its content.
"Our political dialogue has grown, our consultations in regional forums have intensified, and our defence and counter- terrorism cooperation have expanded," he said.
Singh also supported the objective of an ASEAN Community by 2015 and said that India would continue to be an active participant in the initiative for ASEAN integration and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity.
"I feel we should intensify our political and security consultations, including in regional forums such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus," he said, adding the growing role and responsibilities of ASEAN and India in global affairs calls for increased consultation on a broader range of international developments.
Further, he said that as maritime nations, both the sides should intensify their engagement for maritime security and safety, for freedom of navigation and for peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law.
"We should also foster regional cooperation to counter piracy and respond to natural disasters," he said, adding connectivity in terms of physical, institutional, people-to- people, digital and by sea and air - holds the key to closer partnership between the two sides.
Citing importance of connectivity, Singh said it would stimulate trade and generate prosperity across the region.
"We should, therefore, attach high priority to a quick implementation of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its extension to Laos and Cambodia. We should also launch the second track that would run from India through Myanmar, Laos PDR and Cambodia to Vietnam," he said.