India-ASEAN relations at exciting stage: PM

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India-ASEAN relations were at an "exciting stage" and expressed confidence that the free trade agreement in services and investment would be transformational.

Flagging down 22-day, eight-nation India-ASEAN Car Rally, Singh said India and ASEAN nations should build a web of linkages to unleash the vast economic potential of the region.

"…our future will be driven by the bonds of connectivity we build in the coming years," Singh said welcoming the participants of the car rally in the presence of heads of state and governments of the ASEAN member nations.

"These physical bonds will be strengthened by digital links, which will help our younger generations to network better. Together, this web of linkages will help unleash the vast economic potential of our region, accelerate development and deepen our strategic partnership," he said.

Observing that India-ASEAN ties were at an "exciting stage", Singh said the two sides had framed a new paradigm by elevating the relationship to a strategic partnership and by concluding negotiations on free trade agreement in services and investment.

"I am confident that this agreement could be as transformational as our agreement on Goods has been," he said.

The Prime Minister said the car rally, which traversed nearly 8,000 kms in 22 days, has reinforced the importance of strengthening connectivity in all its dimensions between India and ASEAN.

"In the last three weeks, the car rally has rekindled these ancient bonds of friendship between India and ASEAN. It has also served to highlight the natural strategic imperative for our relationship in contemporary times," Singh said.