SINGAPORE� India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday met with her Singaporean counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan here and discussed bilateral and multilateral issues relating to the economic and strategic partnership, officials said.

The two leaders also discussed the enormous potential for cooperation between ASEAN and India, officials said.

They had discussions on bilateral and multilateral issues relating to the economic and strategic partnership, Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

Swaraj addressed the Indian diaspora at the ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) during which she reaffirmed India's commitment to ASEAN. She also met delegates from the ASEAN countries attending the PBD.

Balakrishnan said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between ASEAN and six of its key partners including India is a historic opportunity to set up the world's largest trade bloc.

If it comes to fruition, the RCEP would cover half of the world's population and a third of its gross domestic product, he said.

"Economic integration is not just a mantra, but it is crucial for the mutual prosperity of the citizens of India and of ASEAN," Balakrishnan told some 3,000 Indian delegates.

He pointed out that the potential was still untapped.

"There is a huge potential for growth in trade, tourism and many other fields (between India and ASEAN)," he said.

To grow ASEAN's ties with India, Balakrishnan suggested more affordable flights, to encourage more businessmen and tourists to travel.

Smart cities in India and ASEAN could also connect with each other, the minister said.

He also called for better digital connectivity.

Earlier today, Swaraj said that India's dialogue partnership with ASEAN has evolved into a strategic partnership and the Indian diaspora provides a platform for stronger ties with the grouping.

ASEAN, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is India's fourth largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2 per cent of India's total trade.

India is ASEAN's seventh largest trading partner. Trade is back on track and registered an eight per cent increase in 2016-17, as compared to the previous year.

New Delhi will host a commemorative summit on January 25 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Dialogue Partnership between India and ASEAN in which all the leaders of the bloc are expected to participate.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK