New Delhi: In the backdrop of increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the Indian sub-continent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged the ASEAN nations to strengthen bilateral co-operation for enhanced maritime security, peace and stability in the region.
''India shares the ASEAN vision for rule-based societies and values of peace. We are committed to working with ASEAN nations to enhance collaboration in the maritime domain,'' the PM said in his speech.
India shares the ASEAN vision for rule based societies and values of peace. We are committed to work with ASEAN nations to enhance collaboration in the maritime domain: PM Narendra Modi pic.twitter.com/fzUwenf1nQ
— ANI (@ANI) January 25, 2018
''Maritime security cooperation has been our major focus during our discussions. Freedom of navigation will be a key focus of India, ASEAN in the maritime domain,'' PM Modi said while addressing the plenary session of India-ASEAN summit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that ASEAN stands right at the "centre" of India's Act East Policy while claiming that the country's relationship with the 10-member bloc has "evolved significantly" in all these years.
''Since 1992 our partnership has evolved, we have made success in implementing the objective of ASEAN-India partisanship for peace, progress and shared prosperity through five-year plan of action,'' PM Modi said.
PM Narendra Modi also welcomed the leaders of the ASEAN-nations who will also be the chief guests at the country's 69th Republic Day and expressed hope that peace, stability and development can be achieved in the region if all work together.
''Delighted to welcome you all to the ASEAN-India commemorative summit. Our shared voyage goes back thousands of years. It is India's privilege to host the ASEAN leaders. The leaders will be our honoured guests at the Republic Day celebrations,'' PM Modi said.
Welcoming the ASEAN leaders, the PM said, ''Your collective presence in India has touched hearts of my 1.25 billion fellow countrymen.''
The PM also highlighted that the trade between India and ASEAN nations has "grown 25 times in 25 years."
"Investments are robust and growing. We will further enhance trade ties and work towards greater interaction among our business communities," he added.
He also talked about the shared cultural linkages between the countries.
"The Ramayana, the ancient India epic, continues to be a valuable shared legacy in ASEAN and Indian subcontinent. Buddhism also binds us closely. Islam in many parts of South East Asia has a distinctive Indian connection going back several centuries," he said.
It was a privilege for India to play a role in conversations of temples in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, the PM added.
In order to further strengthen the country's ''historical bonds with ASEAN states,'' the PM proposed to declare ''2019 as the year to promote tourism.''
The PM earlier held bilateral talks with his counterpart from Thailand Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on strengthening cooperation in strategic areas of trade, defence and security.
Modi also held meetings with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the current chair of the ASEAN grouping, and Sultan of Brunei Darussalam Hassanal Bolkiah.
The Prime Minister has so far held bilateral meetings with six ASEAN leaders since yesterday.
These meetings on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit to mark the 25 years of Indo-ASEAN ties, come in the backdrop of increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region.
In a series of tweets after these meetings, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "Our 'Act East' complementing Thailand's Act West policy! Prime Minister Modi met with PM of Thailand."
A constructive dialogue on the economic and commercial exchange, connectivity, defence and security, cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges took place, he said.
Kumar also tweeted, "Strategic partnership rooted in commercial, cultural and people-to-people contacts!...Modi had a productive discussion with Singapore's Lee Hsien loong on economic and commercial ties, FinTech, tourism, enhanced connectivity and Smart Cities."
On Modi's meeting with Brunei's Sultan, Kumar tweeted, "Bolstering ties with Brunei Darussalam! the prime minister...And his Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah had positive discussion on cooperation in defence and security, energy, ICT, education, health and space."
On the eve of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit to celebrate 25 years of the India-ASEAN partnership, Modi had held bilateral meetings with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei.
This year, the heads of state of all ASEAN nations will grace India's Republic Day celebrations.
(With PTI inputs)