India has expressed the hope that the Asean-India Maritime Transport cooperation agreement will be finalised by the end of the year, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.
"We have identified maritime cooperation as a major area and both sides have started talks on a maritime transport pact which could be firmed up by year-end," she said.
ASEAN is India's fourth largest trading partner and the annual trade between the two sides stood at over $76 billion in 2013.
In the backdrop of growing Chinese influence in South China Sea, India and Asean (Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries are discussing the evolving maritime security architecture in the region.
Asked specifically about South China Sea, which was witnessing growing Chinese influence and whether it would figure during the ongoing meeting 'Delhi Dialogue VII', secretary east in the ministry of external affairs Anil Wadhwa said, “When we discuss security issues in the South China Sea, maritime security etc, obviously these issues will come up.”
“The idea is to evolve security architecture in the region... The code of conduct in South China Sea, which is engaging China in the ASEAN countries... All these issues will come up,” Wadhwa said.
India has been always maintaining that there should be a freedom of navigation in the high seas and the territorial dispute in South China Sea should
be resolved through dialogue.
The Minister pointed out that some progress has been made in implementing the trilateral highway project which proposes to provide seamless connectivity from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar.
Delhi Dialogue is India’s Asean-centric Track 1.5 forum where policymakers, along with others from academia and think tanks, from India and the Asean Member States, exchange ideas and perspectives on how to build on the existing partnership.