ASEAN central to India's 'Act East' policy: PM Modi

Modi also said that the 'engagement is driven by common priorities bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the region.' Photograph:( Getty )

Laos Sep 08, 2016, 05.22 AM (IST)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that ASEAN is central to India's 'Act East' policy.

While addressing the 14th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India summit in  Laos, Vientiane, Modi said: "Our engagement driven by common priorities bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the region." 

Enhancing connectivity was central to India's partnership with ASEAN, he told the 10-member grouping attended by heads of the states.

"Seamless digital connectivity between India and Southeast Asia is a shared objective. India committed to Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity," Modi said.

Securing seas was a shared responsibility, he said, adding that sea lanes are "life lines of global trade".

Laotian premier Thongloun Sisoulith complimented India's Act East policy and its contribution to ASEAN and hoped the summit will provide future direction. 

It's pertinent to mention that the National Democratic Alliance-led Indian government has made its relations with East Asian neighbours a foreign policy a priority under the 'Act East' policy. 

Indian ambassador to ASEAN, Suresh Kumar Reddy had earlier said India-ASEAN summit will set the agenda for further strengthening of ties which will help India achieve its objectives for socio-economic growth. 

The summit will also provide valuable partners who can bring technology, resources and who can support Indian industries, he had told the Indian news agency ANI. Areas in which further cooperation is required includes agriculture, climate change, security and strengthening connectivity between the ASEAN countries, he said. 

Modi refers to Pakistan again while talking about terror 

Days after telling the G20 nations that 'one nation in South Asia is spreading terror' as he made a veiled attack at Pakistan, Modi today sought the cooperation of ASEAN members at the ongoing summit in Laos, Vientiane to combat the 'menace of terror' while making a reference to the neighbouring country again. 

"The threat is local, regional, and transitional at the same time. Our partnership with ASEAN seeks to craft a response through coordination, cooperation at multiple levels," Modi said as he expressed concern about the rising 'export of terror'. 

While addressing the 14th ASEAN-India summit here, the Prime Minister also noted that growing radicalism through the ideology of hatred and spread of extreme violence are the other security threats, the Indian news agency PTI reported. 

He said that in the face of growing traditional and non-traditional challenges, political cooperation has emerged as key in relations.

"We are willing to take concrete steps to enhance cooperation in cyber security, de-radicalisation and counterterrorism," Modi asserted. 

Day-2 ASEAN summit highlights 

The second day of the ASEAN summit was focused on the issue of South China Sea. 

On Wednesday, China came under fire over ''illegal'' island-building in the disputed South China Sea. 

China refuted the claims saying it had not started building at the shoal. Philippines on Wednesday released photos which showed Chinese ships in the area, AFP reported.

Just hours after the pictures were released, Thailand which has remained neutral regarding this issue, said it "supports China's efforts" to maintain maritime peace in South China Sea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also expressed concern over Beijing's dominating claims in the South China Sea, which is also claimed by philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Tokyo is also in loggerheads with Beijing over disputed islands in East China Sea.

"I am seriously concerned with the continuing attempts to change unilaterally the status quo in the East and South China Sea and I hope that both parties to the dispute in the South China Sea will abide by the ruling by the China-Philippines tribunal court, which legally binds the parties to the dispute, and it will lead to a peaceful settlement of the dispute," Abe said, according to a briefing by foreign press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura.

Abe pledged $440 million to aid Asian countries to combat terrorism. 

US President Barack Obama yet again warned today that the international tribunal's ruling was "binding".  "The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped clarify maritime rights in the region," Obama told a summit of Asian leaders in Laos.

(WION with inputs from agencies)