Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the ASEAN summit on the 15th of November, alongside numerous other South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a regional organization composed of several different nations committed to promoting economic, political, and military cooperation. Prime Minister Modi also met with the members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) on the 15th of November to discuss China’s increasing presence in Asia. These developments demonstrate Modi’s prioritization of Indian relations with Southeast Asia, especially in the midst of China’s rapidly growing influence in the region.
The informal ASEAN- Indian Breakfast Summit took place on the 15th of November, and was chaired by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, H.E. Lee Hsien Loong. All ASEAN member states were represented through their individual Heads of State, and the Secretary- General of ASEAN was present as well. The summit focused on further exploring the topics discussed in the previously held ASEAN- India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on January 25th, 2018, which was centered around the theme “Shared Values, Common Destiny.” The Delhi Declaration was also examined during the January summit meeting, with its implementation considered important for the growth of the ASEAN- India partnership. The Delhi Declaration promotes the prioritization of healthcare for people living in rural and remote settings, which is a necessary step to eventually achieve universal healthcare coverage within the countries. India’s presence in ASEAN affairs has been widely recognized and appreciated by members states, especially regarding the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting- Plus.
Prime Minister Modi represented India in the ASEAN- India Breakfast Summit, discussing the importance of maritime cooperation and trade prioritization for continued development of Indo-Pacific relations. He also held individual meetings with officials from Singapore, Australia, and Thailand to examine different ways to strengthen bilateral relations as well. Trade, defense, and security were heavily discussed topics. Prime Minister Modi also served as the keynote speaker of the Fintech Festival prior to the ASEAN summit, which is one the world’s most significant events on financial technology. He was the first head of government to serve as the speaker for the Fintech Festival, which took place in Singapore on November 14th. Modi’s attendance and participation in the ASEAN summit represents India’s commitment to Indo-Pacific relations. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar released a statement saying, “PM Narendra Modi participated at ASEAN-India Breakfast Summit in Singapore. Reaffirmed cooperation in maritime domain and centrality of trade and investment towards prosperity of Indo-Pacific.” The discussion of these topics is vital to securing Indian presence in ASEAN affairs, as well as economic collaboration between India and the ASEAN member states.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue also met on November 15th, amidst the ASEAN summit meetings. The four members of the dialogue include India, the United States, Australia, and Japan. This meeting focused on discussing topics such as regional security, counter-terrorism, and sustainable development. The Belt and Road Initiative and its consequences was incorporated in the conversation, including the overwhelming question of how to handle China’s growing influence in the region. China’s militarization efforts of the South Beijing Sea were also of primary concern, as counterbalancing China is a priority for all four nations. The meeting also focused on establishing the Quad’s role in the ASEAN context: “There was a greater consciousness among the members at this meeting that there is a need to reassure ASEAN that the Quad is not meant to supplant or replace ASEAN centrality.” ASEAN is an encompassing regional organization that focuses on the economic and political prosperity of its member states, and its commitment to driving Indo-Pacific prosperity distances it from the security dialogue.