Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for enhanced multilateral cooperation while reiterating India’s vision of an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region during the 13th East Asia Summit here.
“At the East Asia Summit in Singapore, I shared my thoughts on enhancing multilateral cooperation, economic and cultural ties among member nations,” Modi tweeted after the summit.
According to External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, Modi reiterated India’s vision of a peaceful, open and inclusive Indo Pacific region, strengthening maritime cooperation and commitment to a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The East Asia Summit is a premier leaders-led forum in the Indo-Pacific region comprising the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam – and its eight dialogue partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Russia.
Since its inception in 2005, it has played an important role in reviewing political, security and economic developments in the Indo-Pacific region.
India has been stressing on the centrality of Asean’s role for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the Asean member states and the six countries with which this regional bloc has existing free trade agreements — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Earlier in the day, Modi reaffirmed India’s cooperation in the maritime domain during an India-Asean Breakfast Summit here.
“Reaffirmed cooperation in maritime domain and centrality of trade and investment towards prosperity of Indo-Pacific,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson tweeted following the meeting.
Under New Delhi’s Act East Policy, India has been increasing its engagements with the Asean regional bloc.
In January 2018, India hosted the Asean-India Commemorative Summit to celebrate 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership.
In an unprecedented gesture, all 10 Asean leaders attended the Commemorative Summit and graced the Republic Day celebrations as chief guests.
According to a report in the Straits Times, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged India to join Asean in a push to create the RCEP, the world’s largest free trade area, next year.
“I am glad that we have made tremendous progress this year to advance the RCEP negotiations,” Lee said during the Asean-India summit.
“We are now close to the finishing line, although further work remains to finalize the remaining details.”
Stating that all effort should be made to bring the RCEP negotiations to conclusion in 2019, Lee said: “Together with the Asean-India Free Trade Area, we hope that this will help us reach the Asean-India trade target of $200 billion in total trade by 2022.”