Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday hoped that early completion of formalities for implementing the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement would ensure that the work would begin on finalising the other two pillars of a FTA — services and investment.

"This would be an important step in our goal of comprehensive economic cooperation," the Prime Minister said while speaking at the 8th India-ASEAN summit here.

However, sources said, "It is too bad that the agreement in services and investment wasn’t signed between India and other South East Asian nations during the current Summit. We had expected that it would go through this time."

Dr. Singh commended officials for developing a Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity for 2010-2015 (This has been completed with China). Terming it an ambitious road map, he said the 82 action points reflected the potential and desire to develop a multi-faceted India-ASEAN relationship. He invited ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan to visit India to review the mechanisms and procedures to speed up the pace of implementing the agreed projects.

He reiterated his formulation that ASEAN is the core around which the process of economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region should be built.

While commending the plan for the future and noting that both sides will have to "work very hard" to realise it, the Prime Minister pointed out that India-ASEAN cooperation over the past five years had led to cooperation in areas such as political and security ties, economic cooperation and the promotion of socio-cultural links.

After holding its summit meeting, the 10-member ASEAN on Friday followed it up by one-to-one summits with the +3 countries – China, Japan and South Korea — which first began in 1997. On Saturday it is holding separate summits with the other three – India, New Zealand and Australia.

In order to step up people-to-people contacts which is "well below potential," the Prime Minister announced visa on arrival facility to people from Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos from January 1, 2011.

India was also ready to set up a Centre for Tracking and Data Reception and an Imaging facility for the ASEAN countries. This Centre would utilise data provided by Indian remote sensing satellites with the Prime Minister proposing a meeting of the heads of space agencies in India which could work out exact details of cooperation.

Dr. Singh said he was looking forward to the first-ever India-ASEAN Summit in India in 2012 and hoped the Eminent Persons Group would be set up quickly to formulate a vision statement for the meet.

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