India, China can achieve trade aspirations simultaneously:Prez

"Laos and Cambodia have good relations and cooperation with China and also with India. Our relations (with these two countries) have improved since we started our Look East policy in the 1990s...

"We believe there is enough scope in the world for both countries, China and India, to develop and grow. Both the countries can achieve their aspirations simultaneously," Patil, who commenced a 10-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia today, told reporters on board her special aircraft. The President was replying to a question on whether Laos and Cambodia leaned more towards China than India.

Patil felt that the full potential of trade and commerce between India and the two ASEAN countries had still not been exploited and hoped her visit would prove effective in enhancing it.

"A business delegation is accompanying me. India is one of the largest trading partners of ASEAN countries today. But I feel the potential is much bigger and has not been fully realised. My visit should encourage them to explore more areas of economic cooperation," she said.

Patil said India had long-standing cultural relations with Laos and Cambodia. "We have maintained political dialogues with both these countries.... My visit will be an opportunity to continue discussions with the leaderships of these countries and to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen and consolidate our relations as well as enhance our economic engagement with these countries," she said.

She noted that India had been the Co-chair of International Commission for Supervision and Control on Indo-China, where it played a significant role for which there is considerable appreciation in the region. Patil also said that both Laos and Cambodia have given unconditional support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

"My visit to Laos and Cambodia -- two important countries in South-East Asia -- will reaffirm our pursuit of a closer and enduring partnership with countries of ASEAN region as part of our Look East policy," Patil said.

She appreciated the "proactive and supportive role" played by Laos as Country Coordinator for India from 2003-06 in ASEAN. "Currently, Cambodia is the coordinator on the ASEAN side on India-ASEAN relations, and we recall that it was under its chairmanship of ASEAN that India attained summit-level partnership.

"I expect to discuss our growing engagement with ASEAN countries as we move towards the next Indian-ASEAN and East Asia summits in Vietnam in October," she said.
Patil maintained that India was closely involved with Laos and Cambodia in the field of culture. India is involved in the conservation and preservation of ancient monuments in both these countries.

"I hope my visit to these sites will encourage people-to-people contacts as well as tourism, thus strengthening our traditional linkages. "During this visit, the existing Cultural Exchange Programme with Laos will be renewed for a further period of three years," she said.

Emphasising on the importance of strategic ties with Laos and Cambodia, Patil said she would discuss ways to promote greater stability and security in the region. "I believe India, Laos and Cambodia have much to gain by cooperating with each other in combating extremism and terrorism," she said. Patil will also meet the Indian community in Laos and Cambodia during the 10-day visit.

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