NEW DELHI - Arguing that the current geopolitical uncertainty provides an opportunity for India and Asean to embark on greater economic cooperation, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam has urged India to look ahead with "cautious optimism" and tap into the region's "great potential".
"The region has grown by an annual average of 5.4 per cent, above the global average of 3.8 per cent. It has a combined GDP of just under US$3 trillion (S$4.16 trillion), and a collective market of 640 million consumers," he noted.
"Like India, Asean has a young population, a growing middle class and is experiencing rapid urbanisation. Sixty per cent of Asean's population is below 35. By 2030, we expect the middle class in Asean will double to 163 million. So the potential for growth is huge."
The minister was speaking at Singapore Symposium 2019, an interactive session held in Mumbai on Wednesday (Aug 28). He and Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong are on an official visit to India from Wednesday to Saturday.
Mr Shanmugam also expressed the hope that India will leverage the growing connectivity with Asean and embrace opportunities in sectors like fintech.
"Singapore and India have begun exploratory steps towards greater digital connectivity with the establishment of the FinTech Joint Working Group between the India Department of Economic Affairs and our central bank. These efforts can be extended to the rest of Asean," he said.
India is Asean's sixth-largest trading partner and its seventh-largest source of foreign investment. Its trade with the region has grown from less than US$3 billion in 1993 to nearly US$80 billion last year.
Together, India and Asean have a population of 1.8 billion, which is one-quarter of the world's total, and a combined GDP of around US$5 trillion.
While India and Asean signed a free trade agreement in 2009, the two are now involved in negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that also includes China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
Mr Shanmugam is scheduled to speak in New Delhi on Saturday, when he will deliver remarks on geopolitical developments and the threat of religious extremism. He will also meet his counterparts from the Indian Ministry of Law and Justice to further strengthen bilateral cooperation.