South East Asia with key countries facing political chaos, rioting and a deadly typhoon, even as India sought to boost strategic ties with the ASEAN region on economic and security issues.
The significance of the ASEAN was evident with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Thailand in May, packed with meetings with his counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra and the signing of seven accords.
Singh described Thailand as the springboard for India’s engagement with southeast and east Asia and said: “It remains the vital link in our Look East Policy and our strategic partnership with ASEAN.”
He said India saw Thailand as an important partner in promoting maritime security, regional economic integration and the evolution of an open, balanced and inclusive regional architecture anchored in ASEAN centrality.
The two sides also signed the much awaited Extradition Treaty, with India eyeing to bring back Munna Zingada, a key aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
“Our growing security cooperation received a major boost today. The Extradition Treaty, concluded after two decades of negotiations, and a memorandum on cooperation in anti-money laundering send a major signal of our shared commitment to combating terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking and counterfeiting,” Singh had said.
Seeking greater cooperation with South East Asian countries on economic and security issues, India also announced a separate Mission for ASEAN region to be set up in Jakarta with a full-time resident ambassador. The ASEAN members welcomed the move as an illustration of the intensification of the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
Addressing the 11th ASEAN-India Summit in October in Brunei, Singh said India was ready to sign an FTA with ASEAN on services and investment to boost their bilateral trade to USD 100 billion by 2015, from USD 76 billion last year.
Noting that connectivity is a strategic priority in India-ASEAN relationships, the Prime Minister said that the 3,200-km trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand is expected to be ready by 2016.
The year also saw the Philippines being ravaged by one of the most powerful typhoons in recent times, “Haiyan”, that turned the city of Tacloban into a ghost town claiming over 5,000 lives with large scale destruction. The Buddhist nation of Thailand is also in the grip of political instability after opposition-led protesters took to the streets calling for an end to the government of Premier Shinawatra following years of discontent.