India fully supports a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN with a central role in the Indo-Pacific and both sides should identify a new set of priorities while navigating the “arduous path” arising from developments in Ukraine, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.
In his opening address at a special meeting of India-ASEAN foreign ministers in Delhi, Mr Jaishankar talked about the “geopolitical headwinds” triggered by the Ukraine crisis and its knock-on effects on food, energy security, prices of fertilisers and commodities as well as logistics and supply chains.
India is hosting the two-day conclave to mark the 30th anniversary of its relations with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The conclave is largely expected to explore ways to deal with the adverse impact of the Ukraine crisis on trade, economy and regional security as well as to further broad base two-way ties.
In his remarks, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan slammed Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, saying such actions if unchecked can threaten the “whole system of peace and stability which we have depended on for the basis of our growth, development and prosperity over many decades.”
Vivian Balakrishnan, who is the country coordinator for India in ASEAN, said Russian actions have “upended the international system of rules and norms and international law which we all depend on”.
Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Jaishankar said it has not fully abated and there is much ground yet to be covered “as we walk towards post-pandemic recovery”.
“This path has become even more arduous with geopolitical headwinds which we face due to developments in Ukraine and its knock-on effects on food and energy security, as well as fertilizer and commodities prices, and logistics and supply chain disruptions,” he said.
He said the ASEAN has always stood tall as a “beacon of regionalism, multilateralism and globalisation” and that it has successfully carved out a niche for itself in the region and provided the foundation for the evolving strategic and economic architecture in the Indo-Pacific.
The external affairs minister said there is strong convergence between ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and it is the testimony of the shared vision of the two sides for the region.
“ASEAN’s role today is perhaps more important than ever before given the geopolitical challenges and uncertainties that the world faces. India fully supports a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN, one whose centrality in the Indo-Pacific is fully recognised,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“Under the current global uncertainties, as we review our journey of the last 30 years and chart our path for the coming decades, it is important that we identify a new set of priorities while ensuring the early realization of our ongoing initiatives,” he added.
The minister also delved into the evolution of ASEAN-India ties, stating that they are anchored in history, nurtured by common ethos and have withstood the test of time, growing stronger with each passing decade.
“As we enter the fourth decade of our relationship, our ties too must respond to the world that we confront. A better connected India and ASEAN would be well-positioned to promote decentralized globalisation and resilient and reliable supply chains that is so needed by the international community,” he said.
The ASEAN is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region. India and several other countries, including the US, China, Japan and Australia, are its dialogue partners.
ASEAN-India dialogue relations started with the establishment of a sectoral partnership in 1992. This graduated to full dialogue partnership in December 1995 and summit level partnership in 2002.
The ties were elevated to strategic partnership in 2012. The ASEAN is central to India’s Act East Policy and its vision for the wider Indo-Pacific. The ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar.