Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called for expansion of India’s multi-sectoral engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He made the remarks on a three-day visit to Thailand in an address as co-chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-India summit.

“I welcome India-ASEAN cooperation on Indo-Pacific outlook. India’s Act East policy is an important part of our Indo-Pacific vision and ASEAN lies at the core of it. Integrated, strong and economically prospering ASEAN is in [the] interest of India,” he said.

The prime minister said there was an opportunity to boost cooperation in maritime security, blue economy, digital technology, scientific research, agriculture, and engineering. He claimed that enhancing connectivity between ASEAN and India was significant for the “overall growth of ties”.

The group of 10 member nations of ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia – is considered to be one of the most influential groupings in the region. India, along with the many other countries, including the United States, China, and Japan, is a dialogue partner.

On the sidelines of the summit, Modi on Sunday held a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with the two leaders resolving to work closely to tackle terror and extremism threats, PTI reported. The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to work towards peace, prosperity and security, the External Affairs Ministry said.

Modi also told the Indonesian president that India would work together with the country to strengthen their ties in the security, connectivity, defence, trade and investment, among other sectors. The Indian prime minister also held talks on boosting bilateral trade and called for the need for increased market access for Indian products in several sectors, including automobile and pharmaceutical.

“India attaches high priority to its bilateral relationship with Indonesia, with which we share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” the ministry said. Modi also pointed out that Indian companies had significant investments in Indonesia, and invited the nation’s firms to avail of the opportunities presented in India.

Modi also invited the Indonesian president to come to India at a convenient time next year. This is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The ASEAN region, including India, has a combined population of 1.85 billion – one-fourth of the world population. The collective Gross Domestic Product of the region has been estimated at more than $3.8 trillion. ASEAN investment in India, worth more than $70 billion in the last 17 years, accounted for over 17% of the country’s total foreign direct investment.

Earlier in the day, Modi told the global community in Bangkok that it is the best time to invest in India as the country is undergoing transformative changes. “For investment and easy business, come to India,” the prime minister said. “To innovate and starting up, come to India. To experience some of the best tourist sites and warm hospitality of people, come to India. India awaits you with open arms.”

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