New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) A day after a massive earthquake close to Indonesia triggered fears of another tsunami, India Thursday called for greater cooperation with nations of the Southeast Asian region to meet growing non-traditional security threats such as natural calamities, epidemic, piracy and transnational crimes.
Sanjay Singh, ministry of external affairs' secretary (east), told a Track-II dialogue between India and Malaysia, a key ASEAN nation, that nations of the region were now well prepared to respond to natural calamities, compared to 2004 when a tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean claimed several thousand lives.
'But yesterday's (Wednesday) event underscores the need for greater cooperation between the armed forces of the nations in the region to meet non-traditional security challenges and calamities,' Singh said at the third India-Malaysia Strategic Dialogue, a Track-II diplomacy effort driven by Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) at the Sapru House here.
Noting that there had been steady growth in the bilateral exchanges between India and Malaysia, the Indian official noted that the trade had witnessed a growth of 30 percent in 2011 to $12.5 billion compared to 2010.
'It (bilateral trade) is set to achieve the target of $15 billion much earlier than 2015,' he observed, adding that the forum of chief executive officers of businesses in both countries and the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that came into force in July 2011 were acting as a catalyst in the regard.
He also said that bilateral trade relations with Malaysia was only adding to the already robust India-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) trade and the set goals. He also listed information technology, infrastructure, education and traditional medicine as the areas that would drive the trade growth between India and Malaysia in the coming years.
'India is looking at Malaysia as not only a business partner, but also as a hub and gateway to the ASEAN,' he added.
India and ASEAN are celebrating the 20th year of their ties and the 10th anniversary of their summit level engagement in 2012. A series of people-to-people, business and other exchanges to mark the occasion have been lined up. Malaysia is a key member of ASEAN and a long-standing partner of India from the region, having centuries-old cultural ties.
Singh said bilateral relations between India and Malaysia will only help in building a regional architecture that will contribute to prosperity, peace and development. He said nations of ASEAN and India had a common stake in security and prosperity of the region.
'We believe ASEAN can contribute to the development of a new paradigm in the area. We believe development, connectivity and security, in that order, are important components of growth in the region and for ensuring our prosperity,' he added.
Earlier, welcoming the participants to the dialogue, ICWA acting director general Sarvajit Chakravarti noted that this Track-II engagement between India and Malaysia was one of the success stories in diplomacy.
Maintaining that there is need to bring India and Malaysia closer together, Chakravarti noted that the two nations have enjoyed strong economic and strategic ties since independence.
ISIS chief executive Mahani Zainal Abidin, in her remarks, noted that India-Malaysia relations were important in both the regional and the global context, particularly in view of the world economic crisis, regime changes in West Asia and North Africa, and the US' recently shifting its diplomacy pivot to the Asia-Pacific.
Apart from the economic and strategic ties, Mahani said it was important for both India and Malaysia to increase and strengthen their people-to-people contact and ties.
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