New Delhi: Shoring up efforts to combat terrorism and enhancing economic engagement will be the focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addresses two powerful regional blocs at the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits during his three-day visit to Kuala Lumpur beginning Saturday.
Modi will also hold talks with the top leadership of Malaysia on ways to ramp up bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including defence and security and take the strategic ties to a new level. The two sides are likely to sign a number of MoUs.
Combating terrorism is likely to be the major focus area of the 10th East Asia Summit and the Prime Minister will seek concerted efforts to defeat the challenge as the shock of the Paris terrorist attacks jolted the whole world, said officials.
ASEAN is considered one of the world’s fastest growing regions and both sides are likely to seek greater economic engagement besides expanding cooperation in a host of other areas such as maritime security and dealing with illicit drug trafficking and cyber crime.
ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner and India in turn is the sixth largest trading partner for the bloc. The combined GDP of both sides is USD 2.57 trillion.
On November 21, Modi will attend the 13th ASEAN-India Summit and will address the East Asia Summit the next day.
“In view of the rise of non-traditional security threats, ASEAN and India are looking closely in addressing terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber crime and piracy along the Malacca Straits,” said Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa.
Asked about the recent tension in the South China Sea following the visit of a US ship, he said India does not favour any party and has been maintaining that disputes in the region must be resolved through dialogue.
He said India was for speedy implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties and was looking forward to the conclusion of a document in this regard between ASEAN and China.
India and the ASEAN countries are also likely to discuss ways to enhance connectivity links. A motor vehicles agreement between India-Myanmar-Thailand has just been finalised and the negotiations for ASEAN-India maritime transport agreement are also underway, he said.
The leaders of the East Asia Summit are expected to discuss matters of international concern including terrorism,irregular migration, the South China Sea, the situation in Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.
A statement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations is also likely to be issued by the leaders of East Asia Summit.
Wadhwa said negotiations on an RCEP Agreement involving the 10 ASEAN countries and its six FTA partners including India have seen some breakthroughs and are expected to be concluded in 2016.
He said the agreement will open doors for Indian business in the RCEP countries having a combined GDP of USD 17 trillion.
At the ASEAN summit, the leaders will take note of the new Plan of Action (2016-2020) to further enhance ASEAN-India cooperation along the politico-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.
Seven statements and declarations are expected to be adopted at the EAS to reinforce its commitment to specific issues including countering violent extremism, ensuring security and enhancing regional maritime cooperation.
Modi along with other East Asia Summit heads of state and government will also witness the signing ceremony of ASEAN’s “2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community” and the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together”.
India and ASEAN have 30 dialogue mechanisms including a summit and seven ministerial meetings involving external affairs, commerce, tourism, agriculture, environment, renewable energy and telecommunications.
Trade between India and ASEAN stood at $76.52 billion in 2014-15. India’s exports to ASEAN were $31.81 billion and India’s imports from ASEAN were $44.71 billion.
The ASEAN-India economic integration process has got a fillip with the creation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area in July this year, after the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements came into force.
The key members of the ASEAN block include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.
Apart from the 10 ASEAN member states, East Asia Summit members include India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia.
Modi’s visit to Malaysia is also a bilateral one and he will have wide-ranging talks with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. Modi will unveil a statue of Swamy Vivekananda and gift a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to Malaysia.
His engagement in Malaysia will include addressing an Indian community event and interacting with a group of top businessmen. Both sides are expected to sign an MoU to enhance cooperation in cyber-security.
Ties between India and Malaysia are on an upswing and bilateral trade volume last year was around $14 billion.
Around 2 million Indians live in Malaysia and constitute 8% of its total population.
From Malayisa, Modi will leave for Singapore on a bilateral visit on November 23
India to complete strategic partnership with Singapore
India expects to conclude a ‘strategic partnership’ with Singapore during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the South-East Asian nation where he would also meet top CEOs and address the Indian community.
Modi will be in Singapore on November 23-24 on a bilateral visit, during which he is also expected to sign an enhanced defence cooperation pact, along with other MoUs including on cyber security, culture and training on urban management.
Briefing the media about the visit, Secretary (East) with the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa said Singapore has approximately 3,50,000-strong Indian diaspora out of its total population of 5.5 million.
The bilateral trade with Singapore is about USD 17 billion and Singaporean companies are very active in India since early 1990s, including in equity markets.
“Singapore has emerged as the second-largest source of FDI into India at about USD 35.9 billion (total for April 2000 to June 2015), which is about 13.9 per cent of total FDI into India,” Wadhwa said, while adding that Indian investments into Singapore are also fairly large at USD 37 billion.
“Singapore has a strategic location with status as a financial, aviation and maritime hub. The flow of investments, presence of a large Indian diaspora and its expertise in urban development and skill development make it a very valued partner for India.
“During the visit, we would conclude a strategic partnership with Singapore, along with further strengthening of our defence relationships,” Wadhwa said.
The focus of the visit will also include ‘5-S plank’ of scaling up trade and investment, speeding up connectivity, smart cities, skills development and state focus.
“Also, an enhanced defence cooperation agreement is likely to be signed, along with some other MoUs on cyber security, culture, training on urban management etc,” he added.
Asked about the CEOs he will be meeting in Singapore, Wadhwa said the list is still a work in progress.
To a question about whether an orchid would be named after Modi during his visit, Wadhwa said, “The orchid naming ceremony is not on the schedule any longer. It was being talked about earlier, but due to paucity of time, we had to forgo that. That will not happen (now).”
Separately, the officials sought to downplay the reports about Singapore government restricting the participation at Modi’s community event to only those with Indian passports.
Officials said the event organisers have put in place a system under which people need to register and those having registered themselves would be attending. The organisers have named the event ‘Namo in Singapore’ and would include a nearly three-hour cultural show before Modi’s address. .
“For urban development sector, we are trying to collaborate with Singapore by way of training. Singapore has agreed to set up a centre in ITI in Udaipur and would set up another skill centre in the North-East,” Wadhwa said.
“Wadhwa further said Singapore supports India in the United Nations Security Council for our permanent membership and the UNSC reforms and they have also always supported India’s entry into ASEAN.”
Talking about Modi’s programme in Singapore, Wadhwa said the Prime Minister will deliver the prestigious Singapore Lecture soon after his arrival on the evening of November 23 from Malaysia. Modi will be participating in ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore’s Prime Minister is also expected to be present at the Lecture where the audience would be largely policymakers, think-tanks, academics and diplomatic community.
On the morning of November 24, Modi will have a breakfast meeting with Singapore businessmen while he will meet Prime Minister of Singapore, Singapore President later in the day, and MoUs will be signed.
Modi will also lay a wreath at INA (Indian National Army) Monument in Singapore and also visit the Institute of Technical Education College, which is involved in skills development.
On his second day, Modi will also address the India-Singapore Economic Convention while there will be a brief meeting with select Singapore CEOs. Later in the evening, he will address the Indian community before leaving for India.
He also said the Indian community events were planned in Singapore and Malaysia as well.
“Normally, the Prime Minister likes to address a gathering of Indian expats and I am sure that same pattern will follow in both these countries,” he said.
The Indian community event at Singapore will take place at the Singapore Expo Centre.