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Transcript of Statement by Secretary (East) on Prime Minister's visit to Manila, Philippines

November 09, 2017

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 Rashtrapati Ji, Up-Rashtrapati Ji and our Prime Minister to all the ten ASEAN countries in last three years. This shows the importance the 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 an 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, 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. Investments from ASEAN in the last 17 years has been over $ 70 billion accounting for more than 17% of our total FDI and Indian investments 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 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 its South Asian Regional Centre in Varanasi as well. This will be the first center outside Philippines.

The Mahavir Philippines Foundation on the other hand is an associate centre of Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti based in Jaipur which is the famous "Jaipur Foot.” It is a non-profit philanthropic organization 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 the 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 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, there is a lot of convergence in our world view. 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, 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 Prime Minister’s engagement in the ASEAN related meetings, as I have said before, ASEAN is central to India’s Act East Policy therefore our PM’s participation in the ASEAN India Summit and the East Asia Summit, provides a very important opportunity to reiterate our commitment to this 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, Industry, 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 to 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. There ASEAN-India Green Fund and 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 Prime Ministers of India, since its inception and 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.

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