PM announces visa on arrival for four Asean countries

By Minu Jain, IANS,

Hanoi: Nationals from Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Laos would be given visa on arrival from Jan 1, 2011, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced here Saturday.

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Addressing the 8th India-Asean summit, the prime minister looked forward to the conclusion of services and investment agreement between the two sides.

“We hope that all formalities for implementing the India-Asean Trade in Goods Agreement by all Asean states are completed at an early date.

“The conclusion of a Services and Investment Agreement will be an important step in our goal of comprehensive economic cooperation,” he told the gathering and stressed that India hoped to “sustain a growth rate of 9-10 percent per year which will offer many opportunities for trade and investment”.

He also announced that India would set up a Centre for Tracking and Data Reception and an imaging facility for Asean countries.

Proposing a meeting of heads of space agencies in India to work out exact details of cooperation, he said: “This centre would utilise data provided by Indian remote sensing satellites and harness it for multiple developmental applications.”

Under the Initiative for Asean Integration, India would also upgrade the level of youth exchanges as well as establish vocal training centres in each of the grouping’s countries.

“Connectivity is another important area of our cooperation. As a further measure to support the Asean Master Plan on Connectivity, we will offer 100 IT scholarships to each of the 10 Asean countries over the next five years,” he said.

The prime minister, who noted in his speech that the summit was taking place in the backdrop of the 1,000 year anniversary of Hanoi and condoled the recent deaths in floods in Vietnam and tsunami in Indonesia, said the India-Asean partnership had initiated cooperation in a diverse range of sectors.

“For the past five years the achievement of the India-Asean partnership has been to initiate cooperation in a diverse range of sectors covering political and security ties, economic cooperation and the promotion of socio-cultural links,” he said.

The Plan of Action to implement the Asean-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity for 2010-15, he said, was “an ambitious road map and the 82 action points reflect the vast potential and desire to develop a multi-faceted India-Asean relationship”.

He also invited Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan to visit India to review the mechanisms and procedures in place so that the pace of implementing agreed projects could be speeded up.

The prime minister urged further efforts to identify concrete projects for cooperation under the India-Asean Science & Technology Fund, India-Asean Green Fund and the $50 million India-Asean Fund announced last year.

Noting that the tourist exchange between India and the Asean countries was “well below the potential”, he said that the text of of the Asean-India memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in tourism had been finalised.

Asean would also establish a promotional chapter for tourism in Mumbai, he announced.

“As a concrete measure, I am happy to announce that we will extend our visa on arrival facility to nationals of Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos with effect from 1st of January 2011.”

Referring to cooperation in political and security matters, the prime minister said: “These are important areas of our cooperation not only because of the common threats that we face but also because such cooperation helps to built mutual trust and understanding.”

India would be hosting the commemorative India-Asean summit in India 2012.

“This will be a landmark event and we must begin preparations early. The Eminent Persons Group should be set up quickly so that it can formulate a vision statement towards a long term strategic partnership between Asean and India that could be the theme of the summit,” he said.