New Delhi: Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar at a lecture in Singapore on “India, ASEAN and Changing Geopolitics”, emphasised the importance Modi administration attaches to its ‘Act East Policy’.
Delivering the lecture, Jaishankar spoke on a number of issues, including ties with China, differences with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and touched upon the ongoing border tensions in Doklam, where Indian and Chinese soldiers have been in a standoff for around three weeks.
India and China must not let differences become disputes and should approach each other with “strategic maturity”, Jaishankar said while alluding to the Doklam crisis. The Foreign Secretary also also spoke about why groupings such as the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) are no longer effective to take forward regional interests.
Speaking emphatically on the role ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) as a grouping plays in connectivity and expanding cooperation, Jaishankar said, “Growing contacts and expanding cooperation with South East Asia opened up to India the world beyond it. This was around the time when India also sought to engage Japan, South Korea and China more seriously. There is no question that ASEAN was a bridge – psychologically, politically and perhaps even physically”.
On the 8th of August 2017, ASEAN would mark fifty years of coming into being. In the same year, India and ASEAN would observe 25 years of their Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership.
In his speech Foreign Secretary Jaishankar spelt out the many areas of convergences that take this partnership to a key strategic level saying, “Involvement with the ASEAN and the consequent development of trade and sourcing of resources from the East has significantly heightened maritime consciousness in India. This has led us not only to be more active in pursuit of maritime interests but to use the domain to add an additional layer to our policy engagement.”