PM Narendra Modi unveils 12-point plan to strengthen Asean-India cooperation
The 12-point plan unveiled by Modi for strengthening Asean-India cooperation covers areas ranging from connectivity to digital public infrastructure.
The Asian century requires creation of a rules-based post-Covid-19 world order and joint efforts are needed to strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday against the backdrop of China’s assertive actions on territorial disputes.
Modi’s remarks, made while addressing the Asean-India Summit and East Asia Summit in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, came days after Beijing released a “standard map” that includes swathes of territories of other countries within China’s borders. India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have protested against the Chinese map.
During the Asean-India Summit, Modi proposed a 12-point plan to bolster cooperation with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Modi told the meeting that the two sides have a common interest in amplifying the voices of the Global South and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. India is determined to work with all Asean members to achieve these goals, he said.
“The 21st century is the century of Asia. This is our century. This requires the creation of a rules-based post-Covid world order, and everyone’s effort for human welfare,” he said at the Asean-India Summit, speaking in Hindi.
Modi was more pointed in his remarks at the East Asia Summit (EAS), which was attended by Chinese Premier Li Qiang. EAS groups Asean member states and eight dialogue partners, including Australia, China, Japan, Russia and the US.
“It is imperative to adhere fully to international laws, and everyone’s commitment and joint efforts are also necessary to strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” Modi told the EAS.
“As I have said before – today’s era is not of war. Dialogue and diplomacy is the only path to resolution,” he added, speaking again in Hindi.
Modi also told the EAS that multilateralism and a rules-based global order are essential for countering challenges such as terrorism, extremism, and geopolitical conflicts in a global landscape surrounded by uncertainties.
“The need of the hour is an Indo-Pacific where international law, including UNCLOS, applies equally to all countries; where there is freedom of navigation and overflight; and where there is unimpeded lawful commerce for the benefit of all,” he said.
Modi further said that the Code of Conduct for South China Sea being negotiated by Asean states and China “should be effective and in accordance with UNCLOS” or United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “Additionally, it should take into consideration the interests of countries that are not directly involved in the discussions,” he added.
He described the EAS as the only leaders-led mechanism for cooperation on strategic matters in the Indo-Pacific that also plays a “pivotal role as the primary confidence-building mechanism in Asia”.
India-China relations are currently at a six-decade low because of a dragging military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China’s President Xi Jinping has decided to skip the G20 Summit to be hosted by India this weekend, and Beijing will be represented at the meeting by Premier Li.
The Indian side lodged a strong protest over China’s “standard map” for including Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, with the external affairs ministry saying such steps will “only complicate the resolution of the boundary question”.
At both summits, Modi emphasised the centrality of Asean in India’s Act East policy and vision for the Indo-Pacific. India and the 10 Asean states are connected by history and geography, shared values, peace, prosperity, and a shared belief in a multipolar world, he said.
Asean holds a central position in the vision of the Quad, whose positive agenda complements various mechanisms of Asean, he added.
India and Asean elevated their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2022, and the Indian side has strong economic and security ties with member states such as Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Modi also raised India’s policy on Myanmar, telling the EAS it takes into account the views of Asean while ensuring peace and security on the borders and enhancing India-Asean connectivity.
The 12-point plan unveiled by Modi for strengthening Asean-India cooperation covers areas ranging from connectivity to digital public infrastructure (DPI) and counter-terrorism. It envisages establishing multi-modal connectivity and an economic corridor that links India, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Europe.
Under the plan, India offered to share its DPI expertise with Asean partners and announced an “Asean-India fund for digital future”. The Indian side also announced the renewal of support to the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA).
The Indian side called for collectively raising issues of the Global South at multilateral forums and offered to share the country’s expertise in providing affordable and quality medicines through the Jan-Aushadhi Kendras.
It also called for a collective fight against terrorism, terror financing and cyber disinformation, cooperation in disaster management, and bolstering collaboration in maritime safety and security and domain awareness.
Other measures included in the plan are traditional medicine, India’s Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
At the Asean-India Summit, Modi announced India’s decision to open an embassy in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. Xanana Gusmão, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, attended the summit as an observer.
Modi concluded his brief visit to Jakarta after attending the two summits, which were being organised back-to-back by host Indonesia at India’s request since New Delhi will host the G20 Summit over the weekend. Modi did not hold any bilateral meetings on the margins of the summits.
By Rezaul H Laskar
Sep 07, 2023 02:34 PM IST