Director General ASEAN Department Laos Ministry of Foreign Affairs

As ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) continues to strengthen, India is also a valued partner of the Economic Union.

Speaking to ANI in Laos Capital Vientiane, Director General of ASEAN Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) Chatoulong Bouasisavath said India is a valued partner of ASEAN.

„India is a valued partner of ASEAN…India understands ASEAN and is helping in the ASEAN region…India has proposed this year on digitization and if accepted, it will further strengthen this India-ASEAN relationship,” he said. .

ASEAN is a political and economic union of 10 countries in Southeast Asia.

After the announcement of the real-time payment connectivity system between India and Singapore, India announced that it will be rolled out to several countries in the region along with Malaysia and other ASEAN countries.

„ASEAN states have various digital payment systems and we are working towards consolidating these… The proposed document on digitization and digital connectivity presented by India will lay the foundation for further cooperation in this area,” said Bouchisawat.

„If we can achieve an integrated payment system, it will become easier as tourists from or to India can use one app to make payments,” he added.

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

The country has seen an uptick in militant activities and a five-point program recommended by ASEAN is working to address the situation. ASEAN recognizes India’s role in maintaining stability in the region.

“We are going along with the five-pronged plan in Myanmar and we have also appointed a special envoy for the region. The special envoy is accountable to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…and we are engaged with many stakeholders in Myanmar,” said Bouchisawat.

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Noting that Myanmar’s neighbor India has a very important role to play, the Laos official said, „It is very important to maintain contact with the Indian side as ASEAN and Laos head.”

ASEAN is also hopeful that India will reconsider its position on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

On the possibility of India’s withdrawal to the Regional Economic Trade Agreement (RCEP), the DG said, „Doors are not closed for India and we still believe that India will see value in the agreement.”

RCEP is a free trade agreement between 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, India celebrates a decade of its 'Act East’ policy, with ASEAN as the central pillar of the policy.

India reiterated its full support for the priorities and deliverables of the ASEAN Hub, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), and Lao PDR’s ASEAN Leadership.

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

This is the first summit since India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations elevated ties between the countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2022.

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