Bangkok, Nov 3 (IANS) The India-ASEAN summit attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday saw ASEAN countries appreciate India’s contribution towards maintaining peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region as both sides discussed terrorism and the need to maintain peace, security and stability in the Beijing-controlled South China Sea.
Briefing reporters on the summit meeting between Modi and the leaders of the 10-member bloc here, Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, said the summit saw the two sides highlight the convergence of their “respective approaches to the Indo-Pacific”.
The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “Spoke of India as a long term friend, a dynamic partner, and acknowledged India’s contribution in the region for peace and stability”.
The ASEAN leaders also spoke of the “many commonalities” they have with India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, including Sagar, which is security and growth for all, she added.
“Terrorism, counter terrorism, violent extremism, cyber security, the South China Sea” were discussed, and both sides stressed on the need for “promoting a rule-based order, including adherence to international law” in the sea, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The statement is significant, as in 2013 the Philippines had accused Beijing of violating the UNCLOS with its aggressive actions on the Scarborough Shoal, a reef located about 225 km off the Philippine coast.
In July 2016, the UN arbitration court had dismissed China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it has “no historic title” to the vast maritime region.
China, which considers the entire South China Sea as its territory, had rejected the ruling, terming it as null and void.
India and the ASEAN discussed “maintaining and promoting, peace, security and stability and safety in the South China Sea, in particular freedom of navigation and overflight”, Singh said.
The two sides discussed India’s leading role in capacity building, including in agriculture, and expressed interest in enhancing partnership in the maritime and cyber domains.
They also appreciated the 1,000 PhD scholarships announced by India as a knowledge building partnership.
The two sides have agreed to undertake a review of the India-ASEAN FTA to make it more balanced.
Earlier, Modi in his speech before the summit had termed the ASEAN region as an integral part of India’s Act East Policy and said India is keen to strengthen partnership in the fields of maritime security, blue economy and humanitarian aid.
He also said India has a $1 billion Line of Credit for boosting physical and digital connectivity with the 10-bloc economically rising Southeast Asian region.
He also welcomed the Indo-Pacific Outlook between India and the ASEAN and said that India’s Act East Policy is a key part of the Indo-Pacific vision.