Under the leadership of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi India aims to make its relations with East Asian neighbors a priority foreign policy. He recently visited the three prominent South East Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, in order to boost up the regional security process, by building a robust strategic occupancy in terms of the regional security issues.
PM Modi’s Malaysia visit celebrates strong India-Malaysia friendship
On 31st May Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Malaysia and met with the newly-elected Malaysian counterpart 92-year-old Mahathir Mohammad. Interestingly, Modi is among the first world leaders to meet Mahathir, who recently became the world’s oldest elected leader. Prime Minister Modi congratulated Dr. Mahathir on assuming the post of Prime Minister of Malaysia. “Our links with Malaysia have been civilizational and historic. Our relationship is rich and diverse”, said PM Modi. The two leaders discussed ways to boost economic and cultural relations between India and Malaysia.
Importantly, Malaysia and India have close ties with culture and history as well as in various key areas, particularly infrastructure development, education, tourism and defense. India is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in South Asia with total turnover of RM 61.43 billion (USD 15.44 billion) in 2017. Interestingly, Modi had announced in New Delhi that on his way to Singapore, he will make a brief halt in Malaysia to meet Mahathir and congratulate the new Malaysian leadership. India and Malaysia have built a thriving economic partnership, and this visit will certainly boost the ties.
PM Modi makes successful Singapore visit delivers keynote address at Shangri La Dialogue
Post Malaysia, PM Modi visited Singapore, where he held productive talks with Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong to strengthen bilateral relations. On June 1st, 2018 the Indian PM delivered his historic keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual security meet-up. This was the first time that an Indian Prime Minister delivered this address. Delivering the keynote address at the prestigious Shangri La Dialogue, PM Modi said inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific. In his address PM Modi unveiled India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region. He said that India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is that of a free, open and inclusive region that embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. He also added that India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members. His speech was awakening as this was the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has delivered the address. It also provided India an opportunity to articulate its view point on the regional security issues and maintenance of peace and stability in the region.
Prime Minister Modi focused on enchanting partnership between India-Singapore in areas like Fintech, skill development, urban planning and artificial intelligence. In past few decades Singapore has proved its worth and helped India in areas like urban development, planning smart cities and infrastructure development. Modi also visited India-Singapore enterprise and innovation exhibition. There he addressed the business community and later in the eve had a roundtable meeting with top selected CEO’s of the country.
PM Modi strengthens ties in Indo-pacific region with maritime neighbour Indonesia
After the annual security meet up PM visited Jakarta on the invitation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. This was his first-ever official visit to Indonesia in a bid to enhance bilateral cooperation in a broad range of areas, including maritime, trade and investment.
Acknowledging the need to maintain maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific region, India and Indonesia reiterated that for peace, stability and sustainable economic growth, it was essential for both countries to ensure “a free, open, transparent, rules-based, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.”
A joint statement issued after one-on-one talks between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and followed by a delegation-level meeting between the two sides, said both countries had reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring respect for “sovereignty and territorial integrity, international law, in particular UNCLOS, freedom of navigation and over-flight, sustainable development and an open, free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment system”. Through the joint statement, both President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Modi also reaffirmed “development in the maritime waters of the Indo-Pacific region as enshrined by UNCLOS and relevant international laws.”
In Indonesia, Modi also interacted with the tender young minds of Nanyang Technical University. He also met with the Indian community in Indonesia.
According to data from Indonesia’s Trade Ministry, India is Indonesia’s largest trading partner in South Asia and fourth biggest trading partner in the world. Bilateral trade reached US$18.13 billion (S$24.27 billion) last year, up nearly 40 per cent from 2016, with Indonesia posting a US$10.04 billion surplus.
This tri-nation visit has certainly helped India for better regional security and infrastructure development and will boost ties with the three prominent South East Asian countries. Importantly, some of the initiatives which the PM Modi took were for the first time, and they certainly provided an opportunity to articulate India’s point of view on regional security issues and maintenance of peace and stability in the region.