India seeks ASEAN as key partner to secure Indo-Pacific

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Singh also expressed satisfaction with ASEAN’s support for the first India-ASEAN maritime exercise planned to be conducted in May next year….reports Asian Lite News

India has nudged the 10-nation ASEAN to become its key partner in securing the Indo-Pacific region, which faces a challenge on account of China’s growing assertiveness.

Addressing the first India-ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia’s Siem Reap today, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh conveyed India’s continued advocacy for a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. India’s approach to the Indo-Pacific is guided by the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) doctrine. Singh also highlighted India’s shared history with southeast Asia, to which a maritime security dimension also needed to be added.

The forum recognised the importance of the India-ASEAN relationship – elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the ASEAN-India Summit held in Cambodia on November 12 – for ensuring peace and stability in the region.

Singh also expressed satisfaction with ASEAN’s support for the first India-ASEAN maritime exercise planned to be conducted in May next year.

As the ASEAN defence ministers acknowledged the positive role played by India in the region, Singh also proposed two major initiatives for further expanding the scope and depth of the partnership.

The first initiative proposed by Singh was the ‘India-ASEAN Initiative for Women in UN Peacekeeping Operations’ which includes the conduct of tailormade courses for women peacekeepers of ASEAN Member States at the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in India, including a ‘Table Top Exercise’ in India for women officers from ASEAN incorporating facets of UN peacekeeping challenges. Singh underlined the importance of women officers in peacekeeping missions for ensuring lasting peace.

The second plan announced by Singh was the ‘India-ASEAN Initiative on Marine Plastic Pollution’ which includes channelising the energy of the youth towards addressing the critical issue of marine pollution.

He informed the ASEAN members of the significant work done by the NCC in the cleaning of Indian beaches and raising awareness about plastic pollution in the Indian coastal community. Singh suggested coordination between the NCC and the equivalent youth organisations of ASEAN countries for a collective effort in this direction in the region. He also proposed establishment of an India-ASEAN Marine Pollution Response Centre at Chennai by the Indian Coast Guard to address and supplement regional efforts to deal with marine pollution incidents.

Both initiatives were very warmly received by the ASEAN defence leadership who unanimously and strongly endorsed its practicality and relevance.

The meeting was held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations in 2022, which has also been designated as ‘ASEAN-India Friendship Year’. It was co-chaired by Singh and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence of Cambodia General Tea Banh.

It preceded the 9th ASEAN-Defence Ministers Meeting’ (ADMM) Plus scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

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