India, ASEAN to focus on maritime transport pact at summit tomorrow

India, ASEAN to focus on maritime transport pact at summit tomorrow

India and the ASEAN are likely to make progress in  talks on the  proposed  Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosts the leaders of 10 South-East Asian nations in New Delhi on Thursday.

The agreement is apparently yet another move by India to expand its maritime connectivity with the ASEAN nations in response to China's hegemonic aspirations in the region and its controversial Belt-and-Road Initiative.

Retreat

Modi will play host to the leaders at a retreat in the Rashtrapati Bhavan just before holding the ASEAN-India commemorative Summit at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave in New Delhi. Their discussion during the retreat will exclusively focus on maritime cooperation and security.

India has been discussing the Agreement with the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations). New Delhi is of the view that maritime connectivity, which was the mainstay of India's ancient trade links with the South-East Asian nations, required "urgent modernisation in the context of current geopolitical realities".

Sources told the DH on Tuesday that the proposed Agreement would help eliminate barriers hindering maritime transport and establish regional maritime transport framework with the objective of maritime transport facilitation between India and South East Asia and beyond.

New Delhi views the Agreement as an instrument to respond to the BRI of China. India has been opposed to the BRI as it believes China has embarked on the cross-continental connectivity initiative to pursue its hegemonic aspirations.

Bilateral meetings

Modi will seek to reassure the ASEAN leaders during the retreat as well as the formal summit that the "quad" India recently relaunched with Australia, Japan and the US to contain China would not undermine the South-East Asian bloc's centrality in the Indo-Pacific. Prime Minister will reaffirm India's firm support for ASEAN centrality in the political and security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region, sources told DH.

Prime Minister will also hold bilateral meetings with all the 10 leaders during their stay in New Delhi.

India, Japan, Australia and the US recently relaunched a quadrilateral dialogue on Indo-Pacific. The quad was first launched in 2007, but it lost momentum soon. It was re-launched on the sideline of the East Asia Summit in Manila on November 12 last year.

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