Public Diplomacy Public Diplomacy

Opening remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Press Conference on conclusion of 11th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

November 12, 2013

We have just concluded the 11th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. This is the first time that India has hosted the biennial ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting since we joined the group in 2007.

ASEM FMM11 was attended by 34 Foreign Ministers and 11 Deputy Foreign Ministers from Asia and Europe. All 51 ASEM members were represented.

Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansariinaugurated the ASEM FMM11 yesterday morning. We, thereafter, had two Plenary sessions, followed by Retreat today. This is the first time ASEM Foreign Ministers have met in Retreat.

The overall theme of the meeting was "ASEM: Bridge to Partnership for Growth and Development.” It provided us a very useful opportunity to have discussions on a number of issues of interest, including economic and financial issues, sustainable development, non-traditional security challenges and regional and global issues. We also assessed the achievements of ASEM over the past 17 years of its existence as well as the way forward.

In our meeting over the last two days, we agreed to intensify efforts to bring about greater synergy between Asian and European partners in ASEM across the threepillars of political dialogue, economic collaboration and socio-cultural exchanges.

We have issued a Chair’s Statement that is a summary of our actual discussions, prepared by the Chair in consensus with ASEM partners. We have successfully avoided the endless text negotiations that had taken up precious time in previous meetings!

Breaking away from the declaratory nature of previous ASEM deliberations, India, as Chair, sought to steer the forum from ‘dialogue’ to ‘deliverables’ and I am glad to say that we were successful in our endeavour. ASEM FMM11 was successful in using the strength of political dialogue in ASEM to forge tangible cooperation amongst members. This marks the beginning of a new orientation for future ASEM meetings. Members agreed that the dynamism of ASEM should find expression in tangible result-oriented initiativeswhich could be utilized to define joint responses by Asia and Europe to global and regional challenges and alsoseize opportunities for growth and development.

12 areas have been identified by members for tangible cooperation. For each area, multiple countries have expressed interest in identifying specific initiatives for enhancing cooperation in that area between ASEM members.

India would be working with interested ASEM partners in the areas of Sustainable Water Management, Energy Efficiency Technologies, Disaster Mitigation and Response, Vocational and Skills Training and Education and Human Resource Development.

Disaster risk mitigation and management has come out to be an urgent priority for collaboration in ASEM, more so because of the destruction and loss of life caused in Philippines and Viet Nam by the typhoon Haiyan. ASEM Ministers expressed solidarity and support for the victims. We felt that ASEM should have capacity to respond immediately in such instances. Many members have committed support in response to the specific requirements conveyed by the Philippines and also indicated their readiness to do likewise for Viet Nam.

We have seen immediate results in the case of ASEM’s response to devastation caused by the typhoon Haiyan. As a measure of support, India proposes to send immediate relief supplies to the Philippines to help those affected by the typhoon. An aircraft with 15 tonnes of relief supplies will depart for the Philippines tonight. The material will consist of medicines and hygiene chemicals; fresh water and water purification material; tents, blankets, mattresses, tarpaulin and ground sheet for shelter; pre cooked meals, biscuits and milk powder; such that the affected persons can be provided immediately relief in terms of medical treatment, shelter and food. As a follow up measure, we shall consider sending a ship to the affected areas equipped with water treatment facilities and additional relief material to provide rehabilitation measures as well as transport to effectively ameliorate the sufferings of those affected.

We have exchanged views and ideas on how to revive growth, create jobs especially for the youth and catalyze economic growth. We have also discussed non-traditional security threats in detail, particularly, terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crimes. We exchanged ideas to address food, water and energy security, as well as address the emerging issues of cyber space and the issues related to cyber crime and cyber security which are confronting national governments and institutions on both Continents.

We have endorsed the recommendation by our Senior Officials to set up a Working Group comprising ASEM members and ASEF to devise a Press and Public Awareness Management Strategy for ASEM.

In this context, I would like to mention the joint initiative by India and the Asia Europe Foundation to host the 9thAsia Europe Foundation Journalists’ Colloquium in Gurgaon on 11-12 November, 2013. We will also be co-hosting with ASEF a two week project in early 2014 on "Sustainable Urbanisation in Heritage Cities” aimed at students and young professionals from ASEM partner countries.

ASEM will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016 and the Ministers have decided to set up a Working Group from amongst ASEM members and ASEF to devise a road map for the 20th Anniversary celebrations. This will continue as work in progress until the 12th ASEM FMM in 2015.

The Asia-Europe Foundation, as the only permanent institution of ASEM, is making an important contribution to the ASEM process. We have endorsed the recommendation of Senior Officials that the ASEF Board of Governors and Executive Director partner the effort to bring closer synergy between ASEF activities and ASEM.

We also discussed Croatia's request for membership of ASEM following its accession to the EU earlier this year. Ministers welcomed Croatia as "Guest of Chair” for all ASEM meetings in 2014 till a decision on its membership at the ASEM10 Summit in Milan, Italy in the second half of 2014.

The EU and Italy briefed us on preparations for the 10th ASEM Summit which will take place in Milan, Italy in 2014. Luxembourg has offered to host the 12th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2015.

In all, it was an excellent meeting. I think we made real progress. We have given voice and visibility to the priorities of Asia in the ASEM agenda. Growth and development are of interest and relevance to both Asia and Europe. The reform in working methods will allow ASEM members to make more focussed efforts to give form and content to urgent priorities on both Continents.

I also had bilateral meetings with many of the visiting ASEM Foreign Ministers on the sidelines including my counterparts from China, Japan, Bangladesh, Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Malta, Cyprus, Czech Republic, RoK, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Portugal, The Netherlands and the EU High Representative.

Thank you.

November 12, 2013


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