Phnom Penh: Early conclusion of ASEAN-India free trade agreement, giving further push to the economic ties and exploring new cooperation areas will be the main focus of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's meeting with the 10-member regional grouping here on Wednesday.
    
India and the ASEAN had already implemented a free trade agreement in goods and are engaged in intense negotiations to widen its base and include services and investments.
    
Krishna arrived here on Tuesday’s evening to participate in the 10th ASEAN-India Ministerial meeting during which entire architecture of the relations between ASEAN and India will be reviewed.
    
Krishna will also participate in the the second East Asia summit Foreign Ministers' meeting and 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial meeting at Phnom Penh.
    
"Since we embark on Look East Policy, I think the ASEAN group of the countries have assumed special significance and we would like to further deepen and strengthen our relations with ASEAN countries," Krishna said.
    
The meeting acquires greater significance as India would be hosting a special two-day ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit on December 20-21 in New Delhi to mark the 20 years of the relationship.
    
The India-ASEAN trade grew by an impressive 20 percent in 2011-12 and both sides will try to further enhance the trade ties in diverse areas to take forward the economic cooperation to new level.
One of the major issues of the discussion at tomorrow's meeting will be review of progress on finalising the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement as both sides are keen on firming up the pact as soon as possible.
    
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) side will be lead by Cambodian Foreign Minister Ho Namhong.
    
The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods (TIG) Agreement was signed in August 2010 after six years of negotiations and it came into force on January 1 last year.

Services and Investments could not be included in that free trade agreement as the two sides failed to reconcile their differences in time and it was decided to have a separate pact on these sectors.
    
In an effort to further enhance ties with ASEAN countries, the government of India has planned a series of events in the run up to the Commemorative Summit in December which will include visit of an Indian Navy ship to a number of ASEAN countries.
    
The economic ministers of ASEAN and India are scheduled to meet in August during which issues relating to the FTA on services and investment will be discussed.
      
The ship Sudarshini, belonging to Indian Navy, is likely to be flagged of by Defence Minister A K Antony off the coast of Kochi on September 15 and it will visit various ports in the ASEAN countries including in Bali, Manila, Singapore, Phuket with an aim to improve good will and camaraderie between the nations and India.
      
An ASEAN-India car rally will also kick start on November 25 in Indonesia and and it will cover a total of 7,500 kms before reaching Guwahati on December 17.
    
Each ASEAN country has formed organising committee to welcome the rally in their respective countries which will be a non competitive one.
    
The rally, being organised by industry chamber CII, will be the second such event as a similar edition was organized in 2004.
    
Each country will be allowed two teams and each car will have four persons.
    
A meeting of leading think tanks of various ASEAN countries and India has also been planned in New Delhi in August to find ways and means to enhance ties.


(Agencies)


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