(G.N.S) Dt. 25
– PM Modi talks about rules based order for oceans and seas
As the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the India-ASEAN summit, the emphasis on maritime security was a clear message to China. With Chinese expansionism on the rise, India’s policy has shifted from ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’.
While laying emphasis on the freedom of navigation in the maritime domain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said security cooperation in this domain was the major focus of discussions with ASEAN leaders. Addressing the ASEAN India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi, PM Modi said, “India shares the ASEAN vision for rule-based societies and values of peace. We are committed to working with ASEAN nations to enhance collaboration in the maritime domain.”
“A rules based order for oceans and seas, respect for international law, is critical for peace. We are committed to working with ASEAN for maritime cooperation”, PM Modi said in his opening remarks, adding that maritime cooperation was a key focus at a retreat of all leaders earlier in the day. In that retreat, there was an agreement to set up a mechanism on maritime cooperation. The summit that marks 25 years of India-ASEAN partnership was attended by the leaders of Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.Reflecting on the partnership of ASEAN nations since the 1990s, the Prime Minister said, “Our partnership has evolved, we have made success in implementing the objective of ASEAN-India partnership for peace, progress and shared prosperity through five-year plan of action. Our collective presence in India has touched hearts of my 1.25 billion fellow Indians.”
PM Modi also highlighted the strategic importance of ASEAN, which he said was at the centre of India’s Act East Policy. “Our friendship has been nurtured by our shared culture & civilisation linkages. The Ramayana, the ancient India epic continues to be a valuable shared legacy in ASEAN & Indian subcontinent. Buddhism also binds us closely. Islam in many parts of South East Asia has distinctive Indian connection going back several centuries.”
The two-day India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi is expected to give boost to the cooperation in key areas of counter-terrorism, security and connectivity amidst increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister held bilateral talks with his counterpart from Thailand Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on strengthening cooperation in strategic areas of trade, defence and security. He also held meetings with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the current chair of the ASEAN grouping, and Sultan of Brunei Darussalam Hassanal Bolkiah. The prime minister has had bilateral meetings with six ASEAN leaders since Wednesday.
These meetings on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit to mark the 25 years of Indo-ASEAN ties, come in the backdrop of increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region.
Meanwhile, China reacted cautiously to India hosting top ASEAN leaders on the country’s 69th Republic Day and hoped that all countries can work jointly to maintain peace, stability and the development of the region. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told PTI: “We hope all countries can work together for peace, stability and development of the region.”
India’s outreach to South East Asian nations is significant given the shadow of China’s dominance in the region. Security, connectivity, terrorism and trade were the key focus in talks.
China today reacted cautiously to the summit. “We are okay with India developing friendly and cooperative relations with ASEAN countries. We hope all countries can work together for peace, stability and development of the region,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said in Beijing.
India still has a long way to go in order to counter China’s influence in the region. According to official data, India-ASEAN trade for 2016-17 was $71 billion, in comparison to the $470 billion trade with China. In 2016, India invested $1 billion in ASEAN as compared to $10 billion by China.
All 10 ASEAN leaders will be chief guests are the Republic Day parade tomorrow, a historic first for India.