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India’s Act East on fast-track: Focus on business and security

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India’s Act East policy is set to get a big boost with a spate of high-profile visits from the ASEAN countries lined up in coming weeks and New Delhi looking at making a vital breakthrough in the huge telecom market of Southeast Asia with a population of 600 million.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister and Vice President are expected to visit India and so is Malaysia’s Prime Minister NajibRazak followed by Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia which is a member of the 18-nation East Asia Summit.

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The renewed spate of India-ASEAN engagement assumes significance as the security dynamics in Southeast Asia and East Asia in the wake of Donald Trump becoming the American president are yet to take a clear shape. With uncertainty over continuation of Barack Obama’s “pivot Asia” under Trump, especially after his scrapping of Trans- Pacific Trade Partnership, ASEAN countries are expected to increasingly look at partnering India in a wide range of areas including security in the face of an assertive China. Trade and investment will continue to remain central to India-ASEAN economic cooperation landscape.

Cashing in on telecom biz

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In fact, 2017 began with India’s efforts to prise through the ASEAN market for Indian telecom equipment and services exports. Telecom products and services are areas where India has a distinct edge over other competitors as far as cost and quality are concerned.

It is with this aspect in mind that India’s state-owned Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC) organised an inter-ministerial meeting between Telecom Ministers of ASEAN countries and India in New Delhi on February 20.

Minister of State for Communications (Independent Charge) Manoj Sinha led the discussions from Indian side with telecom ministers, senior government officials and industry leaders from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Bhutan.

Inaugurating the discussions, Mr Sinha said India’s expertise in taking affordable technologies to remote corners in ASEAN can be leveraged by countries of that region in their rollout of digital connectivity initiatives.

“I can assure you, we will do whatever is required, for Indian products and services to become the first choice for your telecom needs,” he said, and pointed to India’s flagship programmes like Digital India, Make in India and Bharat Net broadband project to drive home the experience of taking technology to remote corners at affordable price.

The Indian government has expressed a keen interest to partner with ASEAN countries in enabling digital connectivity between India and ASEAN and also for spurring broadband within ASEAN countries. “These digital connectivity projects are of strategic importance and can have a transformative impact on the economy and cooperation between ASEAN and India,” an official statement said.

In a bid to enter the ASEAN market, India has committed to providing financial as well as technological support for projects that could include-high-speed fiber optic networks, digital villages, rural broadband, national knowledge network, secured communication networks and telecom training and skill development.

To showcase Indian companies’ world-class products and solutions for customers in ASEAN region who have requirements similar to India, TEPC is organizing its flagship event “India Telecom 2017: An Exclusive International Business Expo” on February 21-22 in New Delhi. The event will witness more than100 foreign high profile ICT industry delegates from more than countries.

(Pallab Bhattacharya contributed inputs for this article)


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