ASEAN ministerial delegates pose for a photo on the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN summit in Singapore (Image: AP)
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on December 13 said India joining the RCEP will send a powerful signal to the world that ASEAN and New Delhi remain committed to a free and fair multilateral trading system amid rising protectionism.
Speaking at the Third Annual Developing Country Forum organised by South Centre and Research and Information System For Developing Countries — a think tank focussed on global economic issues — she said ASEAN and India have experienced positive economic growth above the global economic growth.
"To ensure that we continue this positive trend in midst of a rising trend of protectionism, ASEAN and India economies should continue to uphold an open and inclusive strategic outlook," the Indonesian foreign minister said.
"ASEAN and India partnership should remain committed to promoting a win-win and a zero-sum paradigm. The conclusion of RCEP will send a powerful signal to the world that ASEAN and India remain committed to an open, free and fair multilateral trading system. The implementation of the concrete project will strengthen our economic cooperation," she said.
Last month, at an RCEP Summit in Bangkok, India declined to join the free-trade agreement, comprising the ASEAN nations, China, Japan, Australia and South Korea, stating that its key concerns have not been addressed.
Marsudi said the promotion of maritime cooperation for ASEAN and India in the Indo-Pacific region is "not an option, it is a necessity".
She said nations must ensure that the Indo-Pacific must become a source of cooperation and not conflict. The Indo-Pacific has been witnessing assertiveness of China.
As the Indo-Pacific region faces traditional security challenges and rising non-security challenges, ASEAN and India share the responsibility to ensure maritime safety and security in the region, she said.
She pointed out that both India and ASEAN have common concern and interest in Indo-Pacific and the two sides share the same vision to maintain peace, stability and prosperity.
Speaking at the event, V Muraleedharan, the minister of state for external affairs, said the notion of shared maritime space is not new to India and ASEAN.
Over the centuries of recorded history, the nations of this shared Indo-Pacific maritime region have traded goods, ideas and services with each other, he said.
"Not only have we left an imprint on each other through food, language and philosophy, our quest to develop connectivity between us has also been a driver of science, technology and innovation," Muraleedharan added.