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Media Briefing on upcoming visit of PM to Manila (November 09, 2017)

November 10, 2017

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:Namashkar, good afternoon and a very warm welcome to this press briefing today. There are two components to this briefing as you are already aware, the first will be a briefing on the upcoming visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister to Philippines and for that I have Secretary (East) Ms.Preeti Saran, Jt. Secretary (South) Mr. Vinay Kumar and Jt. Secretary (ASEAN) Mr. AnuragBhushan. After the briefing we will take some questions. After the first component we will come to the second component of the briefing, which is the regular weekly press briefing. So without any further delay may I request Secretary (East) to brief the media on the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister.

Secretary (East), Ms. Preeti Saran:Thank you Raveesh, good afternoon dear friends. Thank you for kindly joining us this afternoon for this special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Manila, Philippines which will be from 12 to 14 November and he will be going there to attend the 15th ASEAN India Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit. This would be our Prime Minister’s first official visit to Philippines and his fourth time participation in the Annual ASEAN-India and the East-Asia summit.

With this visit to Philippines India would have undertaken visits at the highest level of our RashtrapatiJi, Up-RashtrapatiJi and our Prime Minister to all the ten ASEAN countries in last three years. This shows the importance that Government of India attaches to its relations with the ASEAN region. It symbolizes India’s commitment to deepening relationship with ASEAN member states in particular and with the Indo-Pacific region in general within the framework of our government’s Act East policy, which was enunciated by our Prime Minister at the India-ASEAN summit which was held in Nay Pyi Taw in 2014.

Our Prime Minister’s visit takes place in a landmark year because we are celebrating 25 years of India-ASEAN dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit level participation and 5 years of our strategic partnership with ASEAN. During this visit our Prime Minister will also hold a bilateral meeting with President Duterte of Philippines who is also the current Chair of ASEAN. He will also meet with some of the other world leaders who are participating and attending the East-Asia Summit in Manila.

Besides attending these two Summits and his bilateral meetings with the Leaders of the region our Prime Minister would also participate in Special Celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of ASEAN so while we are celebration India-ASEAN 25th anniversary, ASEAN itself is celebrating 50th year of its establishment.Prime Minister will also attend the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders' Meeting that will be held on 14 November in Manila and ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS), and this takes place on November 13. These are important, as we further enhance our trade and investment ties with ASEAN member-states, which constitutes a significant over 10% of our external trade.

The ASEAN region along with India together comprises combined population of 1.85 billion people, which is one fourth of the global population and a combined GDP of over $ 3.8 trillion, creating one of the largest economic spaces in the world. Investment from ASEAN in the last 17 years has been over $ 70 billion accounting for more than 17% of our total FDI and Indian investment in ASEAN during the same period has been more than $ 40 billion.

In addition to these events that I have just spoken about, Prime Minister will also meet members of the Indian community at a reception to be hosted by our Ambassador in Philippines. He will also visit the International Rice Research Institute and the Mahavir Philippines Foundation Inc. (MPFI).

The International Rice Research Institute, which is in a place called Los Banos near Manila, is a leading institute of global repute. Through Scientific Research and Development it has developed better quality of rice seed and helped the global community, including Indian scientists, in addressing issues of food security. A large number of Indian scientists are working in IRRI and they contribute to Research &Development in this field. This particular institute will soon set up a South Asian Regional Centre in Varanasi as well. This will be the first regional center outside Philippines.

The Mahavir Philippines Foundation on the other hand is an associate centre of BhagwanMahavirViklangSahayataSamiti based in Jaipur, which is the famous "Jaipur Foot.” It is a non-profit philanthropic organisation, which has been set up by eminent Filipinos and Indian expat community and has distributed free "Jaipur Foot” to needy amputees. Our Prime Minister’s will visit this to demonstrate our India’s support to this very important charitable activity. Since its establishment this particular foundation has fitted nearly 15,000 amputees in Philippines with the Jaipur Foot making them capable of living a new life.

I’ll just focus a little bit on our bilateral relations with Philippines. We expect our Prime Minister’s meeting with President Duterte to set up the stage for a quantitative change in our bilateral relations with Philippines. We had another Prime Minister of India visit for another ASEAN related summit in Sibu some years back but we haven’t had a Prime Minister level visit from India for some time. We attach high importance to these relations, which are based on a strong foundation of shared values such as respect for plurality, democracy and rule of law. As a key country in the region with a large, educated and young population and a fast growing economy, Philippines is an important partner in India’s Act- East Policy. Like India, Philippines is a services powerhouse.

You would be aware that more than 10 million expat Filipinos work all over the world.Present governments both in India and Philippines are focused on good governance, inclusive growth, development of infrastructure and cooperative federalism, so there is a lot of convergence in our worldview. There are complementarities and we see immense potential in further enhancing our economic relations with Philippines. We expect to undertake specific discussions focused on agriculture, on skill development and capacity building and other areas. Together with our bilateral interaction and interactions at various regional forums like the, ASEAN-India Summit, East-Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ADMM+ (The ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting+) and other such forums, we remain strongly committed to further strengthening and expanding our bilateral cooperation and we look forward to discussing and evolving a geo- strategic situation in the region.

Moving on to our Prime Minister’s engagement in the ASEAN related meetings, as I have said before, ASEAN is central to India’s Act East Policytherefore our PM’s participation in the ASEAN India Summit and the East Asia Summit, provides a very important opportunity to reiterate our commitment to the partnership, especially as we celebrate this landmark year. Apart from very strong bilateral relations that we have with each of the 10 ASEAN member countries, today we have about 30 sectoral dialogue mechanisms and about 7 ministerial level interactions with the ASEAN. These are in the areas of External Affairs, Defence, Commerce, Telecommunication, Agriculture, Energy, Environment and Tourism.

Our leaders when they meet, will review the entire gamut of our relationship, they will also review a series of events and activities that we have undertaken since January this year to celebrate the 25 years of our dialogue partnership. Our bilateral trade and investment remains robust and there is scope for further increase, given the dynamism of the economy of India and the economies of all the ASEAN countries and of course there are huge complementarities so we see immense potential in further enhancing our economic cooperation with the ASEAN countries.

India supports ASEAN’s unity and centrality in the regional security architecture. We have taken a number of initiatives in capacity building, in doing projects as part of the Initiatives for ASEAN Integration, particularly focused on the CLMV countries i.e. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. We have three funds that help finance projects; one is called the India-ASEAN Cooperation Fund, which has a corpus of $100 million.Thereis an ASEAN-India Green Fund and an ASEAN-India Science and Technology Fund. Enhancing connectivity, including physical, digital, economic, cultural and people to people connectivity is an importance focus in our cooperation with the ASEAN region, given our very deep-rooted historical and civilizational ties with this region. We also enjoy immense amount of goodwill in this region.

Moving on to the East Asia Summit, this comprises of 10 of the ASEAN countries plus 8 other countries- India, China, USA, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea. India is a founding member of the East Asia Summit. We attach the highest importance to this forum; we regard it as a leaders-led forum and therefore the Prime Ministers of India, since its inception, being founding members have consistently attended the East Asia Summit since 2005. The East Asia Summit as a forum provides an important opportunity for the leaders of the region to exchange views and assess international issues of concern including traditional and non-traditional security threats, primarily terrorism, maritime cooperation, maritime security and non-proliferation etc.

Our Prime Minister’s visit to Manila will give a new boost to India's bilateral relations with the Philippines and also further strengthen the politico-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars of our engagement with ASEAN. I’ll stop here and be happy to take questions.

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:Thank you Ma’am. There will be just one rule for the question, since this is a briefing related to the upcoming visit of Prime Minister to Philippines we will not take any question on the commemorative summit which is going to take place in January, we will arrange a separate briefing for you and at that time questions related to the January summit could be asked.

Question:What is the status of RCEP and second on radicalization we have seen Prime Minister Modi interacting with the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Indonesian Prime Minister trying to understand their de-radicalization plans, so are we working on something collaborative with the ASEAN countries on this process because radicalization is something which is plaguing India as well?

Question:Prime Minister’s trip to Manila will also be an opportunity to interact with other leaders on the sidelines especially the leaders of the United States, possibly China, possibly Japan. My question is about the strategic side of the relationship, of late there have been talks about something called Quadrilateral Dialogue involving India, United States, Japan and Australia and you spoke about ASEAN’s centrality of the strategic architecture of the region, what is your take on and how are you looking at this because there are speculations that officials are going to meet and sort out the modalities?

Question:There is a report few days ago that the Prime Minister is likely to meet Mr. Trump on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila. Has that been confirmed?

Secretary (East), Ms. Preeti Saran:Thank you. Maybe I will answer some questions and then Raveesh can answer some of the others. As far as RCEP is concerned, as you know the negotiations are underway and really it is the Ministry of Commerce & Industry which would be best placed to respond to this question. I would just like to say that India remains a very committed participant to the RCEP negotiations. We look forward to a balanced outcome that undertakes and takes care of all pillars including goods, services and investments. We are participating in that spirit of a balanced outcome to come out of it. I am sure when the leaders at the level of Heads of State and Governments will meet, we will get further direction on how to move RCEP forward, but we remain very committed participants to these negotiations.

On the question on countering radicalization, yes, it is absolutely true that our Prime Minister has interacted with the leaders of the ASEAN member countries and in fact at the last India-ASEAN summit in Laos, he had in fact announced India’s desire to host an international conference on countering radicalization. We are working out dates of this particular very important event, which we feel we would be able to learn a lot from the experience, particularly of some of the ASEAN member countries as well as from other parts of the world. We would like to share our own experience and so this remains an important item on the agenda. When we come to fix a date for this particular event we will certainly give you more details.

As far as meetings with other leaders on the margins of the East Asia Summit is concerned, yes, it is very important. Apart from the bilateral event the India-ASEAN Summit as well as the East Asia Summit these two which are held back to back definitely provide a very important opportunity for our Prime Minister to interact both formally and informally with several other leaders. I have already given you some elements of his meeting with President Duterte, which will take place, which I confirm. The other meetings are still in the process of being finalized and we will certainly keep you updated regularly, especially our JS (XP) will keep you updated of the meetings that will take place on the margins of these two important summits.

On the last question on quad, Raveesh, maybe you would like to answer that.

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:Are you referring to the quadrilateral involving India or China?

Question Contd.:India, Japan, Australia and USA.

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:Because there is another quadrilateral involving China as well. In the last briefing I had shared our position. Basically we had said that India is open to working with like-minded countries that advance our interests and promote our point of view. There are many such trilateral and multilateral meetings of which India is a member. Similarly there are other countries as well who are members of such multilateral initiatives. I can assure all of you that whenever we plan on holding such a meeting, I will definitely share with you, at this forum.

Question:Can you give us specifics of the India-ASEAN Summit that meeting will also be happening. What will be the issues and agenda of that?

Question:Just a follow up to earlier question, is any summit level quadrilateral meeting under consideration, quadrilateral between India, US, Australia, Japan?

Question:Could you just give us the dates of the summits as per the chronology?

Secretary (East), Ms. Preeti Saran:I will start with the dates first. India-ASEAN Summit as well as the East Asia Summit both these would be held on 14th of November. Our Prime Minister’s bilateral meeting with the President of Philippines would be held on 13th of November. Most of his other bilateral related activities including the visit to the Rice Institute as well as to the Mahavir Foundation and addressing the ASEAN Business Summit would all take place on 13th November and his participation in the ASEAN 50th Anniversary celebrations would also take place on 13th November.

There is of course the Gala Dinner that is being hosted by the President on the evening of 12thNovember, which is for ASEAN and East Asia summit leaders, which also our Prime Minister will attend. So these are the dates for the various events.

As far as what would be discussed in the India-ASEAN Summit, we work in the framework of these five yearly action plans and currently the 2015-2021 Action Plan is underway in which we have a series of activities that have been charted out. The leaders would of course be reviewing the progress, I have to just let you know that the progress has been very robust and so that is one aspect. The second would be to review the commemorative activities that started with exchange of letters between our Prime Minister and the President of Philippines on 20th January earlier this year followed by a seminar on civilizational and cultural linkages that was held in Jakarta.

We have had some very important other very successful youth focused activities for example a Youth Summit that was held in Bhopal in August this year. Later in October for the first time we did an ASEAN-India Band festival and ASEAN-India artist retreat. In the months to come we would have an important connectivity summit that will be held in December and then we have a major business summit to be held in January. In the month of January, which really closes the whole yearlong celebrations we would also hold an important regional PravasiBharatiya Divas that will be held in Singapore.

Our leaders at the India-ASEAN Summit will review all these events and also take stock of our bilateral trade and investment and the potential how we can further enhance all the three pillars of this relationship, which is political security, economic, and people to people. So these are the elements that would be discussed during the summit.

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:Coming back to your question, as far as I understand the meeting will take place or whenever it takes place, the quadrilateral meeting, will be at the official level and the other part of the question and the answer remains the same that as and when I get some confirmation, we will share it with you.

Any other question related to PM’s visit to India-ASEAN, India-Philippines bilateral relations, East Asia Summit?

Question:The bilateral meeting is with the Philippines President on the 13th?

Secretary (East), Ms. Preeti Saran:The bilateral meeting will be with the President of Philippines and that will be held on 13th November. We will keep you updated as the summit is underway. Thank you very much for listening to me.

Official Spokesperson, ShriRaveesh Kumar:
Thank you very much Ma’am, thank you Jt. Secretaries.

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