Narendra Modi visits Manila: PM's talks with Philippines president could signal further uptick in ties
India on Monday signed four agreements, including one to step up cooperation in the defence sector, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila to boost bilateral ties.
The prime minister had a very warm and cordial meeting with president Duterte, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Preeti Saran said. She said that the two nations signed an agreement to boost bilateral cooperation in defence and logistics. The countries also signed an agreement on enhancing cooperation in agriculture, small and medium enterprises and Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Philippines Foreign Service Institute, Saran said.
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte. Twitter @narendramodi
Duterte expressed interest in acquiring fast offshore patrol vessels and welcomed Indian pharmaceutical companies to invest in his country to make good quality and cheaper drugs. He also said Indian infrastructure companies could explore opportunities in the Philippines.
Modi, on his part, expressed interest in expanding cooperation with the Philippines in the renewable energy sector and welcomed the country to join the Solar Alliance. He also invited Duterte to visit India to take part in the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations which will be celebrated next year.
The meeting's relevance stems from the fact that Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit the Philippines in over 36 years. This meeting between the two leaders comes in the backdrop of cordial relations betwe en the two nations.
One of Modi's foreign policy priorities has been better relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours, with his assertion of turning the erstwhile "Look East" policy into an "Act East." This combined with strengthened ASEAN-India relations have had a positive impact on bilateral relations, with an impetus on trade and investment. This has especially been the case since the initiation of ASEAN-India Summit-level partnership and establishment of East Asia Summit, of which India is a founding member.
As Modi said in his speech at the ASEAN Summit, India and the Philippines have a lot in common; they are both pluralistic societies and a strong democratic polity. The two nations have witnessed strong service sector growth and have flourishing economies as well. Hence, trade and commerce come to the forefront of avenues that can be explored by the nations.
Trade between India and the Philippines currently stands at $1.981 bill ion in 2016-17. Indiaâs exports to the Philippines amount to $1487 million and imports worth $494 million. The fact that India formally signed the Trade in Services & Trade in Investments Agreement with ASEAN in 2014 is anticipated to further boost these figures.
According to the Bureau of Immigration, the Indian community in the Philippines is estimated to be about 1,20,000. The Philippines is also beginning to emerge as a destination for Indian students.
Filipino culture also has strong Indian influences. People-to-people relations and culture, hence, are another area of exploration for the nations. As the Ministry of External Affairs has documented, significant efforts are being made in this direction by way of student exchange programs, interactions between parliamentarians, think tanks of the countries and other such ventures.
With rising tensions in the South China Sea, defence cooperation is another key sector that is crucial to this bilateral relation ship. Foreign policy consultations and security dialogue meetings between the two countries have been taking place regularly to foster the same. The defence relations between India and the Philippines have chiefly centred around maritime security, ship-building and mutual training exchanges between their navies. Indian warships have also visited the Philippines every year since 2006.
With China asserting its dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, strategic engagements between India and Philippines have gained even more relevance. Even if Duterte says the South China Sea row is 'better left untouched,' he may not be left with much of a choice if matters escalate.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Nov 13, 2017 11:17 pm | Updated Date: Nov 13, 2017 11:17 pmSource: Google News