Trade, Maritime Security Top Modi’s ASEAN Agenda


The ASEAN and India are likely to unveil a new initiative to expand maritime security cooperation….reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to evaluate India’s engagement with the 10-nation ASEAN during a summit in Jakarta on Thursday. Strengthening India’s trade and security partnerships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to take centre stage in Modi’s discussions with the bloc’s leaders.

The ASEAN-India Summit will be the first summit since the elevation of ties between the two sides to a comprehensive strategic partnership last year.

The two sides are expected to unveil a new initiative to expand maritime security cooperation, people familiar with the matter said, PTI reported.

Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indonesia visit for the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summit ‘important’ just two days before the G20 Summit, the Indian ambassador to ASEAN Jayant Khobragade on Tuesday said that the visit shows how India gives importance to this region and to ASEAN centrality.

“The Prime Minister of India is coming here, despite of G20 Summit. This shows the kind of importance that we give to this region. When we talk about Act East policy, as you know in the early 90s, we had the Look East policy, then our Prime Minister of India in 2014 gave us the Act East policy, then again it evolved into Indo Pacific Oceans initiative, and it became a more comprehensive,” Khobragade said while speaking to ANI here.

“We always give importance to ASEAN centrality. And when we say ASEAN centrality, which means, it’s complex of many things. It’s about connectivity, trade, investment, people-to-people contact. I must also mention the civilisational connection between India and ASEAN, if you go to different countries here you will see, like many monuments, which you can relate to, so, if you take this sum total, then you realize how important this region is and therefore there has always been the focus of the government of India, on this region,” he added.

Speaking further about how the summit becomes more significant given China’s expansionist policy and aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific, the envoy emphasized the importance of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and that India wants the region to grow and prosper.

“This region is very important for trade which happens mainly through maritime routes. Now, if there is no freedom of navigation, there could be problems. Therefore, we have always emphasised that UNCLOS which is the Convention, is like a constitution about the freedom of navigation, etc. So, we reiterate the importance of that, because we want this region to grow to prosper”, said the envoy.

Speaking about the India – ASEAN trade relationship, the envoy highlighted that India’s trade was worth $130 billion during 2022-23.

“If you look at the calendar year, then this financial year it (trade) was like around 130$ billion total trade, just next to European Union. So second largest, but like, all FTAs, this ASEAN India – Free Trade Agreement also needs to be contemplated and therefore, that review is happening. The Ministry of Commerce is fully involved in it and you need negotiation with their counterparts. We hope that this review is quite complex, you know, so they already have identified the priority area etc. And they desire to complete it by 2025”, said the envoy.

Prime Minister will depart Delhi on the night of September 6 and return late evening on September 7. Given that the G20 Summit follows shortly after the ASEAN Summit, it will be a short visit.

Earlier during the briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Secretary (East) Saurabh Kumar said India appreciates the Indonesian Government for making adjustments to the ASEAN meeting schedule so as to facilitate the Prime Minister’s program and his early return.

PM Modi will participate in the ASEAN India Summit along with heads of state or government of the ASEAN member states. East Asia Summit brings together ASEAN members and eight Dialogue Partners, which are Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.

This comes as the 9th ASEAN India Summit to be attended by PM Modi. The Summit is the first one after the elevation of India’s ASEAN relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership which happened last year. (with inputs from agencies)

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