The Hindu, August 15, 2013

The External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, has said that India needs to have a cognitive and accommodative conversation with China and called for an integrated approach towards engaging Asian countries to face the various economic, political and social challenges. Delivering the CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture on ‘India’s Economic Integration with Asia,’ Mr. Khurshid said the conversation should be in a voice which has strength, effectiveness, confidence and belief and not a meek voice. “The conversation should be accommodative from time to time with domestic need. India and China would work together one day but not today, as it’s too early,” he remarked.

He said India was already exploring in South China Sea where it had commercial contracts with Vietnam and other countries of the region. “We are not involved in a dispute in South China Sea. We believe that it should be settled bilaterally between countries which have different points of view. It should be done peacefully and within the four corners of the code of conduct that ASEAN is developing for South China Sea,” he said.

The External Affairs Minister acknowledged that given the criticality of integration of India with Asian countries, the approach that we take to further the economic integration and to face the various economic, political and social challenges to bring the nation together, is extremely important. “Indo-Pacific region was one of the under-explored areas to be worked upon. Also, there was a need for India to provide links with Central Asia. TAPI gas pipeline as one of the most forward looking link of India with Central Asia,” he stated.

While stressing the importance of trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand, Mr. Khurshid said that linking with countries conceptually was more important than linking physically. “There was a need to do away with the traditional way of thinking and start thinking out-of-the-box.”
Those who also spoke on the occasion included Ajay Chibber, Director General, Independent Evaluation and former Assistant Secretary General, UN; Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, MP, chaired the session.

Mr. Chibber agreed with Mr. Khurshid on importance of India-Turkey and India-China relationships and highlighted the importance of Myanmar as a bridge between India and China. He was hopeful that 21{+s}{+t}century like the 19{+t}{+h}century will again be the Asian century with Asia contributing 60-70 per cent to the global economy.

Mr. Kumar asserted that India must show power of its example to be successful and there is a strong need for regional cooperation in South Asia than regional integration. He highlighted that unless there will be economic integration within India, economic integration with Asia will not move ahead.

Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, highlighted the need for effective implementation of Article 307 of the Constitution talking about economic integration within India and expressed hope and expectation to continue working towards economic integration with Asia and Africa.

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