India, ASEAN seek to boost ties amid US-China rivalry

NEW DELHI (AP) — A special meeting between India and Southeast Asian foreign ministers opened Thursday with co-chairs India and Singapore calling for strengthening ties amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a heightened rivalry between the United States and China that threatens peace and stability in the region.

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations face geopolitical headwinds from the war 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.

“India fully supports a strong, unified, prosperous ASEAN whose centrality in the Indo-Pacific is fully recognized,” he said.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Russia’s actions have “upended the international system of rules and norms.”

Balakrishnan added that the rivalry between the U.S. and China has direct implications for all of Asia.

“These developments, if unchecked, can threaten the sole system of peace and stability which we have depended on for the basis of our growth and development and prosperity over many decades,” he said.

The two-day meeting marks the 30th anniversary of India’s dialogue relations with the 10-member regional bloc that includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Jaishankar emphasized the need for strengthening land and sea connectivity with ASEAN member states. The upgrade of the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is part of the ASEAN-India Connectivity initiative.

Trade between India and the ASEAN region amounted to over $78 billion in 2021.

India mainly exports organic chemicals, minerals, ships and boats, iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, cotton and tobacco to ASEAN countries, according to India’s Commerce Ministry. Top products imported by India from ASEAN include coal, palm oil, telephones, light vessels and electronic circuits.

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