NEW DELHI: As the economic relationship between the Association of Southeast Asia Nations and India grows, it is imperative that both sides address the issues of food and energy security, a senior Indonesian diplomat has said in Indian capital.
I Gusti Agung Wesaka Putra, the director general of Asean cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that as Asean-India relations reach a strategic level, the challenges of food and energy security should be high on the agenda, in addition to enhancing economic collaboration.
"On the question of food and energy security, Indonesia continues its calls for closer and concrete collaboration between Asean and India," I Gusti said during the Delhi Dialogue V last Tuesday.
The Delhi Dialogue is an annual conference hosted by the Indian government that focuses on deepening the relationship between Asean and India.
The diplomat reminded leaders from both Asean and India that achieving food and energy security will be one of the most important and difficult challenges of the global community.
"As the global demand for food and energy continues to rise, our region, as one of the most populous in the world, will have to address these imminent challenges with immediate action," I Gusti said.
"We deemed it necessary for Asean-India to identify and implement tangible projects on food and energy security."
India is self-sustaining in rice, while Indonesia must import a large amount of grains to meet domestic demand. But India struggles to alleviate hunger, as poor distribution, among other problems, left 18 percent of the population, some 217 million people, undernourished from 2010 to 2012, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. The FAO reported that nine per cent of Indonesians - 21 million people - were undernourished during the same period.
On the topic of energy security, India is one of the few countries that harnesses nuclear energy for electricity, a feat some in Indonesia hope to accomplish.
I Gusti asked India to share its expertise on digital connectivity with Asean countries, so that economic collaboration between them can be accelerated. He added that cooperation between Asean and India should be enhanced before the Asean Economic Community begins in 2015.
Salman Khurshid, the Indian minister of external affairs, said his country is willing to cooperate with Asean in solving problems in the region.
Connectivity with Asean - geographical, institutional and people-to-people - is a strategic priority for India, he said.
Trade between Asean and India stood at US$79.9 billion (RM247.6 billion) last year, up 37 per cent on a year earlier. The total exceeded the US$70 billion target set by leaders from both India and Asean countries. Asean and Indian leaders declared their countries' commitment to achieve US$100 billion in trade by 2015.