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India remains valued ASEAN partner, says Laos Foreign Ministry official

India continues to be a valued partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to Chatoulong Bouasisavath, Director General of the ASEAN department in Laos’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In an exclusive interview in Vientiane, Bouasisavath said “India is a valued partner of ASEAN…India understands ASEAN and has been helping in the ASEAN region..there is also a proposal this year on digitalisation put up by India which when adopted will further cement this India-ASEAN relationship”.

The official emphasized ongoing efforts to integrate digital payment systems across ASEAN states, with India playing a crucial role. Following the successful real-time payments linkage between India and Singapore, similar initiatives are being explored with Malaysia and other ASEAN countries.

“If we can achieve an integrated payment system, it will become easier for tourists who come from India or those who go there as they can use an app for payment,” Bouasisavath said.

One of the key factors for the ASEAN bloc is the volatile situation in Myanmar.

ASEAN is proceeding with a five-point program and has appointed a special envoy to address the Myanmar crisis. ASEAN also acknowledged the role of India in maintaining stability in the region.

Regarding economic partnerships, ASEAN remains hopeful that India will reconsider its position on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). On the possibility of getting India back to the Regional Economic Trade Agreement RCEP, the DG said, “The doors are not closed for India and we are still hopeful that India will see value in the agreement.”

The RCEP is a free trade agreement among the Asia-Pacific countries of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

This year marks a decade of India’s ‘Act East’ Policy, which places ASEAN at its core. India has reiterated its full support for ASEAN Centrality, ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), and Lao PDR’s ASEAN Chairmanship’s priorities and deliverables under their theme “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience.”

In September last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Indonesia to attend the 20th ASEAN-India Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit (EAS).

It was the first Summit since the elevation of ties between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations bloc of countries to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2022.

(Inputs from ANI)

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