The maiden India-ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting was held at Siem Reap, Cambodia to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of India-ASEAN relations in 2022, also designated as ‘ASEAN-India Friendship Year’. The meeting was co-chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence of Cambodia General Tea Banh.
It preceded the 9th ASEAN-Defence Ministers Meeting’ (ADMM) scheduled on November 23.
The Defence Minister, in his address, highlighted the historic and robust ties that India shares with ASEAN countries. India-ASEAN relationship was elevated recently to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the ASEAN-India Summit held in Cambodia on November 12.
Singh emphasised that the centrality of ASEAN in the Indo- Pacific region is the cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy. He proposed two major initiatives for further expanding the scope and the depth of the India-ASEAN defence relations.
One of the initiatives was the ‘India-ASEAN Initiative for Women in UN Peace Keeping Operations’ which includes conduct of tailor-made courses for women peacekeepers of ASEAN Member States at the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in India and conduct of a ‘Table Top Exercise’ in India for women officers from ASEAN.
The second initiative announced by Singh was ‘India-ASEAN Initiative on Marine Plastic Pollution’ which includes channelising of the energy of the youth towards addressing the critical issue of marine pollution. The Defence Minister informed the ASEAN members of the significant work done by the NCC in the cleaning of Indian beaches and raising awareness about plastic pollution in the Indian coastal community. He suggested coordination between the NCC and the equivalent youth organisations of ASEAN countries for a collective effort in this direction. He also proposed establishment of an India-ASEAN Marine Pollution Response Centre at Chennai by the Indian Coast Guard to address the issue.
Both the initiatives were very warmly received by the ASEAN defence leadership. The ASEAN defence ministers also acknowledged the positive role played by India in the region.
Singh expressed satisfaction towards ASEAN’s support for the first India-ASEAN maritime exercise planned to be conducted in May next year. In conclusion, the forum recognised the importance of the India-ASEAN ties for ensuring peace and stability in the region.