Prime Minister Narendra Modi will co-chair the virtual summit between India and 10-nation ASEAN on Thursday, expected to focus on measures to recover from the economic turmoil triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and ways to further broad-base strategic ties.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday stated that the summit will review the status of ASEAN-India strategic partnership and take stock of progress made in key areas such as connectivity, maritime cooperation, trade and commerce, education and capacity building.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, and India and others such as the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia are its members.
The summit is taking place amid China’s aggressive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea as well as in eastern Ladakh. Several ASEAN member-nations have territorial disputes with China in South China Sea.
New Delhi has its eyes on Indo-Pacific
India was one of the first countries to welcome ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, which has a lot in common with India’s own Indo-Pacific Vision. New Delhi wants to see a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN playing a central role in the Indo-Pacific region. With the increasing focus on oceans as providers of resources, the reservoirs of biodiversity, the highways of global trade and the frontiers of scientific research, cooperation in the maritime domain has become increasingly important under the overall rubric of ASEAN-India cooperation.
Along with Modi, the 17th India-ASEAN summit will be co-chaired by Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
“The leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen ASEAN-India engagement and in this context will note the adoption of ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025). Covid-19, post-pandemic economic recovery and important regional and international developments will also be discussed at the summit,” the MEA said in a statement.
“ASEAN-India strategic partnership stands on a strong foundation of shared geographical, historical and civilisational ties. India’s Act East Policy, underlining ASEAN centrality, reflects the importance, India attaches to engagement with ASEAN,” the MEA stated.
With the Indo-Pacific gaining salience in global discourse, the partnership between India and ASEAN is poised to achieve new strengths, sources said.
In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018, Prime Minister Modi had highlighted ASEAN-centrality and unity as an important pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific Vision. “The 10 countries of South East Asia connect the two great oceans in both the geographical and civilisational sense. Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity, therefore, lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific,” he had said.
In the East Asia Summit in Bangkok in, Modi had launched India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative to implement India’s Indo-Pacific Vision of a safe, secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific Maritime domain — to strengthen maritime security, preserve maritime ecology, sustainably harness maritime resources, enhance cooperation on capacity building and resource sharing, ensure disaster risk reduction and management, promote science, technology and academic cooperation and enhance connectivity, maritime trade and transport.
Officials said India’s Act East Policy, which provides the guiding framework to take forward the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership to the next level, recognises connectivity in its broadest sense as the key.
ASEAN and India share land and maritime borders, and there is a lot of scope for enhancing connectivity through land, air and sea. India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an ongoing effort to enhance road connectivity between Northeast India and Southeast Asia. There is good air-connectivity between India and several ASEAN countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Last year, Indigo and Vietjet started air-services between India and Vietnam.
“We are making efforts to enhance connectivity in the digital and cyber domain also,” an official said.
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