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PM to give east policy a boost at Asean meet


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Pic:Bloomberg

New Delhi: India is poised to give a big boost to its Look East policy when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds bilateral talks with leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia on the sidelines of the two-day commemorative summit with the Asean regional grouping that starts on Thursday.

This is the first time India will be hosting a summit with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on its soil.

Taking advantage of the presence of nearly all heads of state/governments of Asean countries except Philippines which will be represented by its vice-president, Manmohan Singh has decided to engage in intense bilateral diplomacy with individual Asean nations.
In November, Manmohan Singh had met the leaders of Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei and Myanmar in Phnom Penh.

China will be closely watching when the leaders of India and Vietnam meet for bilateral talks as India's oil deals with Vietnam have been fiercely opposed by Beijing on the grounds that oil exploration is being done in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Briefing reporters on the agenda for bilateral meetings, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, joint secretary (south) in the external affairs ministry, said India has three oil fields in Vietnam.
Production has started in one of them and exploration is going on in the other two fields, he said.

"We expect a high-level visit from India to Vietnam," he said.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam.

Substantial investments
Bhattacharyya said India has substantial investments in resource and oil sector in Vietnam. Indian investments in Vietnam are growing, with 78 Indian entities operating in that country. The key areas for bilateral cooperation include agro and agro-processing sector, IT, minerals and oil and gas.

Bilateral talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will focus on further scaling up economic ties which are already on an upswing. Bilateral trade has risen to over $18 billion.

"We hope to revitalise the CEOs forum and energy cooperation," said Bhattacharyya.

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