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By Shakir Husain
NEW DELHI, June 19 (Bernama) -- India respects the ASEAN way of doing things, Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said as he highlighted the expanding relationship between the South Asian country and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Trade and technology are key pillars of their regional cooperation but the two sides can also work together on global issues,” Saifuddin told Bernama in an exclusive interview during his June 15-17 visit to New Delhi.
"The ASEAN-India relationship is, most importantly, about regional cooperation in trade. But it is also about leveraging our partnership at the international stage," the minister said in his remarks.
He said Malaysia and the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc believe in a more sustained world peace based on a multipolar rather than a bipolar framework and working with India is important on this issue.
"India can play a role as a middle power," he said.
Within Asia, Saifuddin said, India is an economic power on its own and plays an important role in the goods and services trade.
Malaysia, as the coordinating country on the ASEAN-India Economic Relations which includes the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement, is working to strengthen this relationship by improving trade processes, he said.
Saifuddin was referring to the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA), which was signed in August 2009 and came into force in January 2010 but the two sides are discussing a review to make the pact more facilitative and relevant to the current global trading practices.
The Malaysian minister admired India's success in the digital economy, especially its ability to foster entrepreneurship through Silicon Valley-style angel investors and venture capitalists.
"That is one model that we may emulate in the ASEAN region and Malaysia," he said. Asked about India's compatibility with the ASEAN institutional architecture in promoting regional cooperation, Saifuddin said India "respects and recognises the concept of ASEAN centrality" and the ASEAN-led mechanisms.
"So far, India has not mentioned anything that is against the ASEAN way of doing things," he said. On India pursuing transport and other connectivity projects with individual ASEAN states, Saifuddin said "generally speaking, ASEAN member states welcome the sub-regional connectivity" projects as ASEAN "has to look at things in a more practical way," he said.
Similarly, Malaysia has undertaken projects with its neighbors, including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, Saifuddin pointed out.
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