See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

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

Diplomacy

UN panel adopts resolution condemning NK human rights abuses

It is expected to pass the UN General Assembly next month for the 14th consecutive year. A United Nations committee on Thursday adopted a resolution calling for accountability for gross human rights violations in North Korea. The UN Third Committee, which oversees humanitarian issues, passed the document by consensus without a vote. The South Korean government said it joined the consensus-based decision in accordance with a policy to work together with the international community for a “substantive improvement” in the human rights of North Korean people. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this year’s reso


By The Korea Herald
November 16, 2018

Diplomacy

Rohingya refugees refuse repatriation

Repatriation postponed as Rohingyas feel return to Myanmar still not safe. The much-awaited launch of the Rohingya repatriation was cancelled at the last moment yesterday as the refugees refused to return to Rakhine for fear of fresh persecution. “The refugees don’t want to return now,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing foreign diplomats in the capital’s State Guest House Padma in the evening. He said Bangladesh sheltered the persecuted Rohingyas with an open heart when they fled Rakhine last year. “We can’t force them to go,” he said, adding that Bangladesh would now discuss with Myanmar sending a group of Rohingya leaders (majhis) to Rakhine to


By Daily Star
November 16, 2018

Diplomacy

China says Pacific island ties no threat to any nation

Government says Xi’s visits to help improve region’s development, people’s livelihoods. China said on Tuesday its cooperation with and assistance to Pacific island countries never target a third party, and called for other countries to jointly help promote the region’s development and improve people’s livelihoods. Vice-Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang made the remark at a news briefing on President Xi Jinping’s state visits to Papua New Guinea, Brunei and the Philippines, and his attendance at the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Xi’s visits will start on Thursday and last to Nov 21. During Xi’s stay in Papua New Guinea, he will meet with leaders of the eight Pacific island countries that have established diplomatic ties with China and deliver a speech at a group meeting with them. In the speech, Xi is expected


By China Daily
November 14, 2018

Diplomacy

India watchful amid developments in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s political crisis has a regional power closely watching developments. The return of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa to power in Sri Lanka amid political turmoil has triggered concern in India, with analysts warning it could lead to a deterioration of ties with the island nation to its south-east and increase the influence of China, already making serious inroads into South Asia. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 26 and named his one-time rival as his replacement. The move plunged the country into political turmoil and a constitution


By The Straits Times
November 14, 2018

Diplomacy

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report


By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018