The year 2017 holds a great significance to India as well as to the ASEAN member countries. It marks the 50th year of the formation of ASEAN and 25 years of Dialogue Partnership between India and ASEAN countries. To highlight the important role youth play in building this relationship, India-ASEAN Youth Summit was organised in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh by India Foundation in association with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and Government of Madhya Pradesh. Youth Delegates from India and the ten ASEAN countries participated in the Youth Summit which comprised many panel discussions as well as parallel group discussions sessions that addressed a wide range of topics. Speakers from all segments gave their valuable inputs to the gathering comprising of young delegates from India and ASEAN countries.
The Inaugural session was chaired by Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The Chief Guest in the Inaugural session was Gen V. K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India. Ms Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, deliverd the Inaugural address and introduced the theme “Shared Values Common Destiny” to the gathering and also stated the importance of having a stable relationship in the India-ASEAN region. Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan stressed on a wide range of aspects involving youth as active participant in building strong and stable relationships among the nations. Gen. V. K. Singh spoke of the importance of mutual understanding amongst India and ASEAN. He said, “We share values and culture since immemorial times. Youth Summits and exchanges like this will not only strengthen the ties but will also provide a platform for the cross-cultural exchange of ideas amongst the youth.”
The Keynote Address on India-ASEAN Relations was delivered by Ms Preeti Saran. In her keynote address, she stressed on the recent developments in the relationship between India and ASEAN which not only involve improving the connectivity but also about India’s attempt to provide financial and technical support to ASEAN. She also stated that commerce and cultural connectivity has been the hallmark of our relationship.
All ASEAN Countries and India gave their country presentations, in which the polity, culture and tradition of their respective countries and India’s relationship with them was highlighted. Parallel discussions took place on four themes: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Digital and IT connectivity, UN SDGs and Polity and Governance. The sessions were conducted in small groups, and witnessed an active participation by the youth, to enlist their views and to facilitate an exchange of ideas.
The “Ambassador’s Panel Discussion” on Trade and Commerce witnessed an engaging discussion among experts because Trade and commerce are the backbones of any kind of bilateral relationship since the economies of all countries are inter-dependent. The speakers in this panel discussion were Ambassadors of Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar. A Youth Declaration was also adopted in the India-ASEAN Youth Summit
The Valedictory session was chaired by Shri O. P. Kohli, Hon’ble Governor of Gujarat, with Additional Charge of Madhya Pradesh. Chief Guest in the Valedictory session was Smt Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister, Government of India. Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Youth Envoy was the Guest of Honour. Smt Sushma Swaraj said that “Ramayana and Buddhism connect ASEAN to India. She said, “Youth must debate, discuss and actively participate in shaping discourse on polity, governance and sustainable development agendas”. The UN Youth Envoy said that young people need to learn the ways in which humans are able to interact with and adapt to technology and added that in this rapidly changing world, there is no better investment a country can make than in the capacities and potential of youth. Hon’ble Governor of Madhya Pradesh, in his valedictory address spoke of the active participation of youth in various nation building activities, both at national and international level.