As the South China Sea dispute dominated deliberations on the first day of the ASEAN summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for maintaining peace in the region and said India never harmed anyone and always believed in “giving”. Addressing a gathering of Indian community here, Modi said India had never taken anything from anyone in its history and rather sacrificed a lot, seen as a veiled message to China which has been ramping up its assertiveness in the resource-rich South China Sea. In a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, Modi told US President Donald Trump that both nations can rise beyond bilateral ties and work jointly for the future of Asia, signalling a convergence of strategic interest. “If you go to our history, you will see we have never taken anything from anyone. We sacrificed 1.5 lakh soldiers in the first and second World Wars but never believed in snatching,” he said on a day the leaders of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations began a two-day long summit talks which primarily focused China’s expansionist military posturing in the South China Sea. Diplomats attending ASEAN meetings said the thorny South China Sea issue, North Korea’s nuclear missile tests and overall security architecture in the region were focus areas of the summit. In his inaugural speech, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte talked about various challenges facing the region and identified terrorism and violent extremism as threats that “know no boundaries”.
About Modi’s meeting with Trump, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the two leaders held “very expansive” talks and carried out a “broad review” of the strategic landscape in Asia. Their talks came a day after officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held their first meeting to give shape to the much talked about quadrilateral alliance to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open”. It is learnt that the broader security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of China’s rising military presence in South China Sea figured in their talks. In the 45-minute-long meeting, Modi also told Trump that India will try to “live up to the expectations” of the US and the world. “The cooperation between India and US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world…We are moving ahead together on many issues,” Modi told Trump in his opening remarks.
The US has been pitching for greater Indo-US cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region where China has been ramping up its military presence. “Wherever President Trump has gone and wherever he got an opportunity to talk about India, he spoke very highly about India. He expressed optimism about India and I am assuring that the expectation the world has, the expectation the US has, India has been trying to live up to that expectation and will continue to do it,” said Modi. After their talks at the Sofitel hotel where Trump is staying, Modi tweeted “Held productive talks with @POTUS on further strengthening India-USA relations. @realDonaldTrump”. Trump had on Friday praised India’s “astounding” growth after it opened up its economy and also lauded Modi, saying he has been working successfully to bring the vast country and its people together.
Speaking at a gathering of CEOs on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang last week, Trump cited India as one of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region making strides. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific” by President Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so called Quadrilateral strategic alliance between US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s rise. PTI MPB ZH 11132242