During his address at the India-ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed India’s commitment to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN nations and called for united efforts in mitigating terrorism. He invited the ASEAN leaders as the Chief Guests for the 2018 Republic Day, saying that 125 crore Indians are waiting to welcome them.
PM Narendra Modi 50 years of ASEAN is an occasion of pride, joy and a time to think ahead about what we can achieve. He remarked, “India places ASEAN at the core of our ‘Act East Policy.’ Our ties with ASEAN are old and we want to further strengthen cooperation.”
The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region and India and several other countries including the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners.
In a clear reference to the South China Sea (SCS) dispute which has cast a shadow over the summit talks, Modi said India will continue its support to the ASEAN for establishing a rules-based security architecture in the region. “India assures the ASEAN of its steady support towards achieving a rules-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region’s interests and its peaceful development,” he said.
China’s aggressive military buildup in the SCS was one of the focus areas of the deliberations at the ASEAN summit. China claims sovereignty over all of SCS, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several 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 SCS in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ASEAN has been pushing for a legally binding code of conduct for all stakeholders in the SCS but Beijing has been opposing such a framework asserting that it will resolve the dispute with respective countries under bilateral mechanism.
Prime Minister Modi also participated at a meeting of leaders of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP, comprising 10-member ASEAN bloc and six other countries — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, is engaged in negotiations for a free trade pact.