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S. Jaishankar bolsters strategic collaborations across Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines

01 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

During his official visit from March 23 to 27, 2024, Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr. S. Jaishankar showcased India's commitment to fostering regional stability and economic growth through strategic partnerships in fintech, maritime security, renewable energy, and more. In Singapore, EAM engaged in bilateral discussions on key areas such as fintech, digitalization, green economy, and skills development, deepening the Strategic Partnership and acknowledging Singapore's role as India's current country coordinator at ASEAN.

In Singapore, EAM engaged in numerous bilateral discussions with key leaders and senior Cabinet Ministers, exchanging perspectives on enhancing collaboration across key areas such as fintech, digitalization, green economy, skills development, and food security, bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, and green energy. This visit not only provided an opportunity to deepen the Strategic Partnership between India and Singapore but also facilitated an assessment of progress in various areas of cooperation. Additionally, Singapore's role as the current country coordinator for India at ASEAN and its participation as a Guest Country during India's Presidency of the G20 in 2023 were acknowledged during the visit.

India and Singapore have a long history of connection, built on trade, cultural exchange, and close personal ties that stretch back for centuries. This relationship is further strengthened by historical ties, with Singapore being a former British colony governed from India. This modern partnership can be traced back to the founding of Singapore in 1819, and India was one of the first countries to recognize Singapore's independence in 1965. The relationship took a significant step forward in 2015, with the signing of a key economic agreement that coincided with the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations. Since then, high-level visits and various agreements on defense, finance, and technology have further solidified the partnership. Singapore is India's largest trading partner in ASEAN and a major source of foreign direct investment. The two countries are also working together on new areas of cooperation such as Fintech and innovation. The large Indian diaspora in Singapore plays a significant role in cultural exchange and acts as a bridge between the two countries.

Cultural exchange is also a major focus, with both countries celebrating events like International Day of Yoga and other historical milestones. The large Indian community in Singapore plays a key role in this vibrant partnership, contributing to both countries' cultural richness and economic success. Through ongoing collaboration in trade, technology, and cultural exchange, India and Singapore look to keep strengthening this multifaceted relationship.

The visit to Manila marked a continuation of the positive momentum in India-Philippines relations, with discussions building upon previous engagements, including Secretary Manalo's visit to India last year and meetings in Kampala earlier this year. Prime Minister Modi's interaction with President Marcos during the India-ASEAN Summit underscores the recent growth in ties, with further discussions planned to convey the Prime Minister's greetings. The depth of engagement between the two nations extends across various domains, including trade, investment, health, and defense, with bilateral trade surpassing USD 3 billion last year. Efforts to enhance cooperation are evident in initiatives such as Quick Impact Projects and increased involvement of Indian companies in digital and physical infrastructure projects.

Maritime cooperation emerges as a key area of collaboration, as both India and the Philippines are seafaring nations in the Indo-Pacific region. Agreements on maritime cooperation and ongoing deployments of Indian Coast Guard vessels in Manila underscore shared interests in maritime safety and security. The broader context of India's partnership with the Philippines within the ASEAN framework highlights the Philippines' upcoming role as India's country coordinator, steering cooperation within the region. Discussions also encompass global and regional issues, reflecting a shared commitment to democratic values, multi-polarity, and strengthening the Global South's presence on the world stage. As the two countries approach the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the trajectory of their ties promises further growth and cooperation across various spheres.

India's partnership with the Philippines within the ASEAN framework is significant, with the Philippines set to become India's country coordinator later this year. This collaboration aims to enhance India-ASEAN cooperation, focusing on reviewing trade agreements, fostering connectivity, and strengthening people-to-people contacts. As India remains deeply committed to the region through its Act East policy and Indo-Pacific vision, it emphasizes the importance of ASEAN's centrality, unity, and adherence to a rules-based order, particularly UNCLOS 1982, to ensure regional progress and prosperity. Moreover, India and the Philippines recognize the need for closer cooperation in shaping the evolving global order, discussing various global and regional issues such as those concerning the UN, NAM, Indo-Pacific, Myanmar, and Ukraine. Both nations advocate for resilient supply chains, trusted digital partnerships, and uphold democratic values, favoring a multi-polar world with a core focus on a multi-polar Asia.

Indian External Affairs Minister visited the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship Samudra Paheredar during its port call to Manila Bay in the Philippines, part of an overseas deployment to ASEAN countries. The ship, equipped with specialized marine pollution control equipment and a Chetak Helicopter, arrived on March 25 for a three-day visit. The visiting minister emphasized the deepening relations between India and the Philippines, highlighting India's maritime tradition's civilizational imprint in the region. The deployment aims to demonstrate the ICG's pollution response capabilities, strengthen bilateral cooperation with the Philippine Coast Guard, and engage in activities such as pollution response training and beach clean-up initiatives with NCC cadets. This visit is significant for enhancing maritime cooperation and safety with key maritime agencies in the ASEAN region, including the Philippine Coast Guard and Vietnam Coast Guard, furthering India's Act East policy and Indo-Pacific vision.

During his visit to Kuala Lumpur, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, praising his vision for stronger bilateral ties and expressing gratitude for his guidance on regional developments. India and Malaysia have a strong relationship that goes back a long time. This is due to two main things: their close economic ties and the connections between their people. In fact, India was the 12th largest country that Malaysia traded with the entire world in 2023. The total trade between the two countries was worth RM 77.76 billion (USD 16.53 billion).

Jaishankar emphasized the importance of enhancing the India-Malaysia relationship across traditional and contemporary areas, aiming to develop a more ambitious agenda for cooperation. Productive discussions were also held with his Malaysian counterpart Mohamad bin Haji Hasan, covering various dimensions of bilateral affairs and regional issues. The visit seeks to bolster cooperation between India and Malaysia as they approach the completion of a decade of Enhanced Strategic Partnership, with discussions also focusing on upcoming high-level visits and the convening of the 7th Joint Commission Meeting between the two countries.

India Malaysia relations have been on an upward swing since the July 2023 visit of Rajnath Singh, India’s Defence Minister, to Kuala Lumpur. This flurry of activity marks a clear peak in bilateral ties after a period of strain in 2019. Singh's discussions with his Malaysian counterpart focused on solidifying defense cooperation, with potential revisions to the existing defense cooperation agreement and increased collaboration in defense technology and industry. Furthermore, the opening of the first regional office of a major Indian state-owned company in Kuala Lumpur signifies a move beyond symbolic gestures and presents opportunities for deeper engagement. However, Malaysia's backing