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PM Modi to Attend ASEAN-India, East Asia Summits in Jakarta on Thursday – News18

A new initiative to boost India-ASEAN maritime security cooperation is likely to be unveiled after Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds summit talks with the leaders of the 10-nation influential bloc in Jakarta on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.

Modi will leave for the Indonesian capital city on Wednesday night to attend the 20th ASEAN-India Summit and 18th East Asia Summit. Indonesia is hosting the summits in its capacity as the current Chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

The 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.

Shoring up India’s trade and security ties with the ASEAN is likely to be the focus of Modi’s engagement with leaders of the bloc.

Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said at a media briefing that Modi will review the progress in ASEAN-India relations and provide them further direction at the summit.

“The prime minister will depart Delhi on the night of September 6 and return on the late evening of September 7. Given that the G20 summit follows shortly after the ASEAN summit, it will be a short visit,” he said.

Asked whether the issue of China’s release of the so-called “new standard” map would figure in the summit talks, Kumar said, “It is difficult to anticipate what would be discussed when the leaders meet, but issues which are of mutual concern — regional and international– would all come up.”

To another question on whether there is a possibility of consensus to reject the map on the issue at the ASEAN-India summit as a number of member countries of the grouping have already criticised China’s cartographic aggression, the senior official said he cannot anticipate what would come out of the discussions.

On August 28, Beijing released the 2023 edition of the “standard map of China” that includes Taiwan, the South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as Chinese territories. India has dismissed the ‘map’ and lodged a strong protest with China over it.

Anguished by China’s territorial claim over the South China Sea, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines have already rejected the claim.

Kumar said New Delhi appreciates Indonesia for making adjustments to the ASEAN meeting schedule so as to facilitate the prime minister’s early return.

“This is a very short visit because the prime minister would be hosting the G20 summit and the effort is to participate in this important summit (ASEAN-India) and get back home as quickly as possible. So there would not be any bilateral (meeting) during the course of the visit,” Kumar said.

He said the ASEAN-India summit would be “special” since it is the first one after the elevation of the relationship between the two sides to a comprehensive strategic partnership last year.

“India’s relations with ASEAN are the central pillar of our Act East policy as well as India’s vision for wider Indo-Pacific. India and ASEAN have a comprehensive engagement covering a wide array of areas,” Kumar said.

Referring to the launch of flight connectivity from India and Vietnam and Indonesia, he said having similar connectivity to other member nations of the grouping is being looked into.

On economic ties, Kumar said the India-ASEAN trade volume in 2022-23 was USD 131.5 billion.

“It accounted for over 11 per cent of India’s trade for the year and was the second highest after India-EU trade,” he said.

In August, during the ASEAN-India economic ministers’ meeting, the two sides started the review of  ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) and agreed for its completion by 2025, he added.

The objective of the review is to make AITIGA more friendly as well as to diversify trade.

The 10 member countries of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

The ties between India and ASEAN have been on a significant upswing in the last few years with focus being on boosting cooperation in the areas of trade and investment as well as security and defence.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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