Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Sunday leave on a three-day visit to the Philippines where he will attend the Asean and East Asia Summits and hold a bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, it was announced on Thursday.
This will be Modi’s first official visit to the Philippines.
“He will be going there to attend the 15th Asean-India Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit,” Priti Saran, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, told the media.
With this, India would have undertaken high-level visits at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister to all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – in the last three years.
“This shows the importance India attaches to its relations with the Asean,” Saran said. “It symbolizes India’s commitment to deepening relations with Asean member states in particular and with the Indo-Pacific region in general within the framework of our Act East Policy.”
While Modi will meet Duterte, also this year’s Asean Chairman, on November 13, the two leaders will participate in the two Summits the next day.
Modi will also attend the special celebrations to mark 50th anniversary of the Asean’s formation, a meeting of the leaders of the countries of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and an Asean Business and Investment Summit.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the Asean member states and the six states with which grouping has free trade pacts – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Asean accounts for over 10 per cent of India’s external trade. Asean and India together comprise a population of 1.85 billion, one-fourth of the global population, and a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion.
Saran said investments in India from Asean countries in the last 17 years had been over $70 billion, accounting for 17 per cent of FDI. Indian investments in Asean is over $40 billion.
Modi’s visit assumes significance as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the India-Asean dialogue partnership.
“Asean is central to India’s Act East Policy. Therefore, our Prime Minister’s participation in the Asean-India Summit and the East Asia Summit provides a very important opportunity to reiterate our commitment to the partnership,” Saran said.
India also has 30 sectoral dialogue mechanisms and seven ministerial-level interactions with Asean.
Saran said India supported Asean’s centrality in the regional security architecture, and enhancing physical, digital, economic, cultural and people-to-people ties was a key focus in the relationship.
New Delhi attached the greatest importance to the East Asia Summit, of which India is a founding member, she said.
The East Asia Summit is held annually by leaders of Asean countries and those of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.
On the margins of the summits, Modi will hold bilateral meetings with some other leaders as well.
Modi and Duterte were expected “to set up the stage for a quantitative change in our bilateral relations with the Philippines”, Saran said.
She said there was immense potential to enhance bilateral economic ties.
In the Philippines, Modi will meet members of the Indian community, visit the International Rice Research Institute and the Mahavir Philippines Foundation, an associate centre of the Bhagwan Mahavir Bikalang Sahayta Samiti of the Jaipur Foot fame.