By ASHOK SHARMA – Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — A special meeting of foreign ministers from India and Southeast Asian countries opened Thursday with the co-chairs of India and Singapore calling for stronger ties in the amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and heightened US-China rivalry that threaten peace and stability in the region.
Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are facing geopolitical headwinds from the war in Ukraine and its impact on food security and energy, prices and supply chains.
“India fully supports a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN whose centrality in the Indo-Pacific is fully recognized,” he said.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Russia’s actions had “turned the international system of rules and norms upside down”.
Balakrishnan added that the rivalry between the United States and China has direct implications for all of Asia.
“These developments, if left unchecked, can threaten the only system of peace and stability that we have depended on for the basis of our growth, development and prosperity for many decades,” he said. declared.
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Jaishankar stressed the need to enhance land and sea connectivity among ASEAN member states. An upgrade of the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is part of the ASEAN-India connectivity initiative.
The two-day meeting in New Delhi marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of formal “dialogue partner” relations between India and ASEAN.
He is followed by the foreign ministers of Singapore. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as representatives of the foreign ministers of Laos, the Philippines and Thailand, India’s external affairs ministry said.
He did not explain why there was no representative from Myanmar, which also belongs to ASEAN. Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said last week that India had invited Myanmar to the meeting.
Representatives of Myanmar’s military government have been barred from recent ASEAN meetings over disagreements over their lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed by the 10-member group last year to help mitigate the violent political crisis in the country.
Trade between India and the ASEAN region exceeded $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 the Indian Ministry of Commerce . India’s major imports from ASEAN include coal, palm oil, telephones, light boats and electronic circuits.
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