India, Brunei ties go from strength to strength

Danial Norjidi

In a message on the occasion of the 71st Republic Day of India, High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar extended his warmest greetings to all members of the Indian community, overseas citizens of India and friends of India in Brunei Darussalam.

“On this day, we mark the passage of another year since the adoption of our Constitution in 1950 through which we proclaimed India to be a Republic,” said the High Commissioner, adding that “Since then, the Constitution of India has proved to be a robust document, long and detailed and yet flexible to amendments to cater to the diverse and changing requirements of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious pluralistic society.”

The High Commissioner affirmed that India is committed to further streamlining its partnership with ASEAN member states in all areas.

“In keeping with this, India participated in the 5th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AIMMAF) held in Brunei in October 2019, with a delegation led by Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Kailash Choudhary.

India also participated in the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2020 held earlier this month in Brunei at the Senior Official level.

“India continues its active partnership with ASEAN in numerous areas, inter alia, business, defence, science and technology, ICT, youth exchanges and culture and sports, etc,” he continued.

File photo of Omkareshwar cityscape in India
Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar
‘Since its re-election in May 2019 with a bigger mandate than before, the Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rededicated itself to improving the socio-economic condition of the people,’ said Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar

“As part of ASEAN-India cooperation in capacity building, the Government of India in September 2019, launched the 1,000 Integrated PhD Fellowships to ASEAN students at 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) of India. This had been earlier announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi in January 2018. The programme is fully funded by the Government of India, for ASEAN students to pursue PhD courses of their choice. The IITs of India are globally recognised as premier technology institutes of excellence and we look forward to a robust participation from all ASEAN member countries, including Brunei.”

Speaking on the relationship between India and Brunei, the High Commissioner said, “Bilateral relations between India and Brunei received a boost in 2019 through a number of exchanges including the 7th Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) Meeting held in June 2019 in New Delhi and the visit of Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Major General Pengiran Dato Paduka Seri Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud to India in August 2019.

“Among the various subjects identified for cooperation during the FOC Meeting, progress has been made on many fronts including in capacity building, health and agriculture,” shared the High Commissioner.

“Two representatives each from the Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited India in 2019 to undergo training courses at ISRO, Bengaluru and Foreign Service Institute (FSI) under the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi respectively.”

He said that details of new initiatives under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, namely, ‘ITEC on-site’, ‘ITEC on-line’ and ‘ITEC Executive’ have also been shared with the Government of Brunei Darussalam for exploring further cooperation.

In addition, the High Commissioner mentioned that, to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the High Commission of India in Brunei Darussalam in collaboration with Kemuda Institute organised the assembling of 500 solar lamp kits by school children from 10 schools across Brunei under the ‘Student Solar Ambassador Workshop’, Solar Urja Through Localization for Sustainability (SOULS) Project funded by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

He highlighted that the project helped create awareness among school children on the potential of using solar power as an alternative renewable and clean form of energy.

The High Commissioner also shared that, “Since its re-election in May 2019 with a bigger mandate than before, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rededicated itself to improving the socio-economic condition of the people.”

The High Commissioner said that this is being carried out through many initiatives including farmers’ insurance, minimum wage and pension, health insurance, rural roads and rural electrification and affordable housing for all.

These, he said, are in addition to the existing schemes empowering citizens to use financial services by mandatorily opening bank accounts; empowering youth through skill development; pension for workforce in the unorganised sector, general and life insurances for people between ages of 18-50 years, development of villages, providing gas connections at subsidised rates for poorer sections of society, to name a few.

“The global economic slowdown has adversely affected India too across sectors including in high value areas such as real estate and construction, automotives and high labour intensive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing,” said the high commissioner.

He noted that, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF), the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of India in 2019 is estimated at 4.5 per cent and at 4.8-5 per cent in 2020.

“The government has initiated a host of reforms and taken many proactive measures to revitalise the economy including slashing the corporate tax rates, infusion of USD10 billion into the public banking system to provide cheaper loans for businesses, housing, automotives and retail sectors and USD2.8 billion into the real estate sector to expedite stalled projects. To boost the auto industry, it has also been decided to lift the ban on new purchases by the government sector.

“Measures to boost exports, reforms in the financial and banking sectors and improved Goods and Service Tax (GST) collections have also been announced.

“The budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, to be announced on February 28, 2020, is also expected to feature further measures towards achieving Prime Minister’s vision of making India a USD5 trillion economy and a global economic powerhouse by 2024-25.”

In 2019, India attracted an estimated USD49 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), which is a 16 per cent increase over 2018. The high commissioner noted that this is against the global scenario of historically low levels of FDI inflows into most countries. India was ranked 63rd in the world for ease of doing business, a jump of 14 places since 2018.

“The government has also taken certain measures to streamline and coordinate governance,” he added.

In concluding his message, the High Commissioner said, “On this happy occasion, I would like to reiterate my greetings and best wishes to all members of the Indian community in Brunei. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, for his leadership and guidance in strengthening the bilateral relationship between our two countries and its people.

“I extend my best wishes to His Majesty, members of the royal family and people of Brunei Darussalam for their continued good health and prosperity,” added the High Commissioner.