New Delhi(PTI): External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that India considers the Asian and African region as part of its extended neighbourhood, adding that New Delhi's partnership with Asia and Africa is unique and dates back to our civilizational contacts through ancient seafarers, traders, intellectuals and monks.
"Today as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, India is attaching the utmost importance to its economic engagement with the countries in these two continents," she said while speaking at the Asian African Summit 2015.
Swaraj said Asia has emerged as a major trading and investment partner for India.
"India's interaction and integration with the South and East Asian economies has grown substantially with the launch of its "Look East Policy" in 1992 and we expect to achieve greater integration with our dynamic neighbours through our "Act East Policy" to realize the dream of an Asian century," she added.
The External Affairs Minister said with substantial trade and investments, Africa is a frontier of new opportunities.
"We are interested in Africa's economic growth and its integration with global economy. Our bilateral trade and investments are both growing rapidly and we have also extended Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) scheme to Least Developed Countries," said Swaraj.
"We are also actively engaged in economic development, human resources development, capacity building, agriculture and food processing, infrastructure development and maritime security through its flagship programme of India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). We will be hosting the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit in end-October this year when I hope to receive several of the leaders present today in my country," she added.
The External Affairs Minister emphasize that the government has launched the "Make in India" programme to facilitate investment, foster innovation, protect intellectual property, and build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure.
"We are also focusing on skill development of youth by offering a variety of training programmes. We have also launched the "Digital India" Campaign to transform India into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy," she added.
Highlighting the five issues faced by Asia and Africa today, Swaraj said she firmly believes that all need to work together on these issues in this century.
"First, Development: Although the pace of socio-economic development in Asia and Africa has acquired momentum, huge infrastructural investments are required to make food and energy accessible to all. We shall need to adapt technologies, increase efficiencies and introduce innovations. Given our similar developmental needs we have much to learn from each other in meeting our developmental goals," said Swaraj.
"Second, Security: The rise of extremist violence and terrorism has been one of the most disturbing security phenomena and several parts of our two continents are victim to a medley of terrorist groups. The ISIS has emerged as a cause of grave concern in the last year. We must be resolute in countering this scourge that challenges our civilization," she added.
Swaraj said, "Third, Capacity Building: Education and skills are vital to provide gainful employment and make our population contributing elements of society. India, Africa and several Asian countries are young countries which need more attention to the capacity building approach. The Bandung Conference underscored the need for developing countries to reduce their economic dependence on the industrialized nations by providing technical assistance to one another. As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of that Conference we need to once again pledge to strengthen our technical and economic cooperation."
"Fourth, Maritime dimension: Maritime security is a matter of concern. We have worked together to combat piracy in the Malacca Straits and the Gulf of Aden, yet the threat remains due to political instability, poverty and lack of development in parts of our region. The Indian Ocean's importance as an active trade route will grow in the future. As we embark upon the concept of Blue Economy as a new pillar of development, it becomes even more important to secure our seas," she added.
Swaraj further said: "Fifth, New global order: The Bandung spirit for a just and equitable order continues. Asia and Africa are both in consonance to reorder international institutions and reform the UN and its Security Council as also other institutions, where our voices are not being heard. We need more cohesive action on this and India is ready to play its due role in the new world order."
The External Affairs Minister said the Asian and African countries need to make sustained efforts to reform the United Nations, revitalize the UN General Assembly and expand the membership of the UN Security Council.
"A reformed and expanded UN Security Council, taking into account the current global realities, will significantly increase representation of Asia and Africa in the UN Security Council," she added.
Expressing her delight to be present on the historic and memorable occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Asian-African Conference and the 10th Anniversary of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, Swaraj congratulate President Joko Widodo for piloting this great initiative on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India,
"I also thank the Government and the people of Indonesia for their warm hospitality and I wish all the success for the deliberations," she added.
The External Affairs Minister said India considers the Asian and African region as part of its extended neighbourhood.
"Our partnership with Asia and Africa is unique and dates back to our civilizational contacts through ancient seafarers, traders, intellectuals and monks," she added.
Reiterating India's abiding commitment to deepen and strengthen its partnership with Asia and Africa for the attainment of the development priorities identified under the New Asian African Strategic Partnership, Swaraj said: "India is confident that this could be achieved through its renewed Africa policy and the Act East Policy."
"We meet today in historic circumstances, at the threshold of change that places us centre-stage globally. Let us work together to ensure that this Conference will be remembered as the defining moment in world history when we establish the goal of a positive and enlightened ethic of globalization, built on democratic foundations and a genuine commitment to the cause of pluralism, peace, prosperity and stability," she added.