In her first foreign visit as defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman will travel to the Philippines on Monday to attend a Southeast Asian defence ministers’ meeting which is likely to review the regional security architecture including China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
During her three-day visit, the defence minister is likely to hold bilateral talks with her counterparts from a number of countries, ministry officials said.
The ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting)-Plus meeting on October 23 and 24 is expected to deliberate extensively on the situation in Afghanistan and Syria besides China’s growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea.
The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.
The two-day meeting will discuss ways to enhance defence and security cooperation among the member nations to effectively counter various transnational security challenges facing the region.
Sitharaman is likely to assert India’s position on the issues at the gathering.
China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, a number of ASEAN member countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei have counter claims.
India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The ADMM-plus is also likely to discuss enhancing maritime cooperation among the member countries, officials said.
The inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in Hanoi in 2010. The defence ministers then had agreed on five areas of practical cooperation to pursue under the new mechanism, including maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations.