See More on Facebook


India-Asean agree to strengthen maritime ties

With China’s growing influence in the region, India and the Asean nations decided to step up maritime and counter-terror cooperation and bolster connectivity plans during a two-day commemorative summit in New Delhi on January 25.

Written by

Updated: February 1, 2018

Leaders of the Asean, which comprises Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei, are in India for the Asean-India Commemorative Summit. The ten visiting heads of states were also the chief guests at India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26 – a signal honour granted by New Delhi to its closest allies.

The summit marked India’s 25 years of engagement with Asean, which is key to New Delhi’s Act East policy and the Indo-Pacific strategy.

“India shares Asean’s vision for peace and prosperity through a rules-based order for the oceans and seas,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, emphasising that freedom of navigation will be a key focus area.

“We remain committed to work with Asean to enhance our practical cooperation in our shared maritime domain,” Modi said in his plenary address. He also said “maritime cooperation is an integral part of part of our discourse throughout our commemorative activities”.

The word maritime figured 14 times in the Delhi Declaration issued by the leaders after their summit, the Hindustan Times reported.

The Delhi Declaration called for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. This assumes significance against the backdrop of growing concern among several Asean members over China’s increased assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are engaged in disputes with China in these waters that are home to a crucial trade route.

Experts are seeing this summit in the backdrop of China’s expansionist tactics and growing economic and military assertiveness in the region. They see this as a perfect opportunity for India to present itself as a powerful ally to these countries in the strategic areas of trade and connectivity.

The Asean leaders brainstormed at a two-hour-long informal discussion on “maritime cooperation and security” at a retreat hosted by Prime Minister Modi at the President’s House.

The spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, Raveesh Kumar, tweeted that Modi, in his opening remarks at the plenary, highlighted the importance of India’s strategic partnership with Asean, placing the bloc at the centre of the Act East policy.

Days before the arrival of the 10 heads of states, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “The prime minister’s intention that the Look East policy should now be the Act East policy is really taking shape.”

Earlier, Modi proposed that 2019 should be declared the year to promote tourism. He said it was a privilege for India to play a role in the conservation of temples in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam

He also said India’s trade with the region has grown 25 times in 25 years, and investments too are robust and growing.

“We will continue to work with Asean to enhance our trade ties. The success of recent events, the Asean-India business meetings have shown encouraging results. We will further enhance trade ties and work towards greater interaction among our business communities,” Modi said, according to media reports.

“Our friendship has been nurtured by our culture, our civilisation,” he added.

In a boost for India’s position on terrorism, the term cross-border terrorism, an oblique reference to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, found an approximate mention in the Delhi Declaration, which spoke of “countering cross-border movement of terrorists” as part of a “comprehensive approach” to fight the menace.

The leaders also agreed to build capacity, improve digital connectivity, infrastructure and services, and develop human resources in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by establishing centres of excellence in software development.

The Indian Express reported Modi discussed issues related to the Indo-Pacific region during the retreat, though there was no mention of “Indo-Pacific” in the Delhi Declaration.

“There was also no mention of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – where there are clear divergences between India and Asean countries. Delhi has consistently opposed BRI, due to its opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But most of the Asean countries have played along so far,” the report said.

Modi held a series of bilateral meetings with heads of state of Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, among other countries.

During his bilateral meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the latter expressed interest in Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database. The two leaders also discussed the menace of “urban terrorism” and “drug trafficking”, and agreed to cooperate on intelligence-sharing and capacity-building.

Bilateral Meets at a Glance

Thailand’s Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Modi reviewed the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project and plans to extend it to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In July, Thailand will take over the role of country coordinator for India at the Asean.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed stepping up air connectivity, establishing a meaningful smart cities network and harmoninising digital payment systems.

Apart from showing interest in the Aadhar card, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spoke of stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation and greater coordination on drug trfficking.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassain Bolkiah talked of cooperation in healthcare, human resource development and IT.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told Modi his government has an “Act West” policy, which complements India’s “Act East” policy. They discussed greater cooperation in defence and maritime issues, and coastal surveillance.

Modi said it was a privilege for India to host leaders of all 10 Asean members for the second time in five years. New Delhi last hosted a similar summit in December 2012. The 10 members of Asean and India have a combined population of about 1.8 billion and a combined GDP of more than US $4.5 trillion.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here


North Korea beefs up self-defense capabilities in military reorganization

The North have been making many changes ahead of talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a meeting of the top military decision-making body to accelerate the development of self-defense capabilities ahead of key events that will decide its national strategy, its state media reported Sunday. Discussions on ways to bolster its military capabilities through organizational restructuring and personnel reshuffle were highlighted during the third expanded meeting of the seventh central military commission of the ruling Workers’ Party. Details on what measures were discussed were not disclosed. “At the meeting, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un

By Zaffar Abbas
December 23, 2019


China-US trade deal bullish news for both countries, rest of world

From Chinese state media. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the China-US deal on the text of a phase-one economic and trade agreement serves as bullish news for both countries and the rest of the world. Speaking at a joint press conference with Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Wang said China has, as always, been opposed to settling economic and trade disputes by imposing tariffs as there is no winner in a trade war. China has also rejected the use of unilateral pressure as it violates the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Wang. He pointed out that following rounds of back-and-forth negotiations, China and the United States have agreed on the wording of a phase-one economic and trade agreement, and the US side has promised to phase out additional tariffs on Chinese products. The agreement demonstrates the spirit

By Esther Ng
December 16, 2019


Biegun arrives in Seoul amid deadlock in NK-US nuclear talks

Pyongyang says it conducted “another crucial test” at Sohae site. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a “close coordination” with allies amid the deadlock in the denuclearization talks with Pyongyang just weeks before the communist regime’s year-end deadline. A day before, North Korea issued statements to announce that it had carried out “another crucial test” at a satellite launching site, warning the United States to “hold off” any action to “rattle” the regime. During his three-day trip here, the US special envoy is expected to meet with officials here to discuss on the

By Zaffar Abbas
December 16, 2019


Myanmar to be sincere in implementing Rohingya repatriation deal

This according to the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. Bangladesh expects that Myanmar would be more tolerant towards Rohingyas after facing trial at the International Court of Justice, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said today. “My expectation is that Myanmar would be sincere in implementing the bilateral deal that signed with Bangladesh on repatriating Rohingyas from Bangladesh,” he told journalists at his ministry office in Dhaka. “Myanmar has invited me before a case lodged with the International Court of Justice. In response, I told that I would go there when the Rohingyas will go back to Myanmar,” the foreign minister said. “I also invited Myanmar to visit Bangladesh to talk to their Rohingya people and to understand their expectations,” Momen said. Globally it has been established that there was a massive crime committed against the Rohingyas, that was des

By Daily Star
December 16, 2019


10 US senators criticise Suu Kyi for representing military’s interest

Suu Kyi is in the Hague defending Myanmar from genocide accusations. Ten US Senators have severely criticized Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for representing the military’s interest before the International Court of Justice and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities. “Representing the Burmese military’s interest before The Hague and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities would undermine what remaining credibility you have before the international community, including in the US Congress,” said a letter to Suu Kyi issued on December 9. The Senators said a defense of the Burmese military at this high-profile international forum is also an affront to the inclusive, multi-cultural and democratic Burma that she claims to champion. They said when Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in

By Daily Star
December 13, 2019


India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran

Imran Khan made the comments after India passed a controversial citizenship requirement. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda. The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday. The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 — but not if they are Muslim. Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries. Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister I

By Asia News Network
December 13, 2019