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‘ASEAN Keen On Indo-Pacific Collaboration’

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment made the statement during the ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum (AIPF) in Jakarta…reports Asian Lite News

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is ready to collaborate with all partners in the Indo-Pacific region by upholding the principle of equality, according to Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment.

He made the statement at the closing of the ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum (AIPF) in Jakarta on Wednesday, ANTARA news agency reported.

“Developing countries are not second-class countries. They also have the right to survive,” he said.

The minister further noted that maintaining sovereignty and mutually beneficial ties, as well as maintaining peace and stability, while achieving a profitable economy and social justice, will be essential cooperation tasks in the region.

He said he hoped that the forum had provided greater understanding about ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific and that the attendees would take good memories to their home countries.

The AIPF, which was held on September 5 and 6, 2023, was part of the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). The forum was a flagship event organized by Indonesia as part of its ASEAN chairmanship in 2023, it was reported.

It served as a platform for the public and the private sector to share, engage, and collaborate inclusively in unlocking the potential of the ASEAN and Indo-Pacific regions and driving their economic growth.

The AIPF was attended by around 2 thousand participants from 51 countries. It was expected to open up further opportunities and build more robust connectivity between ASEAN and Indo-Pacific countries.

The Indo-Pacific accounts for more than 60 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and around half of global trade. It also functions as an essential economic center that encourages trade, investment and innovation.

Meanwhile, located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN is ready to become the hub of economic activities in the coming decades, in line with the theme of Indonesia’s 2023 ASEAN chairmanship, “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, it was reported.

ALSO READ-‘ASEAN Integral to India’s Indo-Pacific Strategy’

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Sri Lanka Fully Aware Of India’s Security Concerns: Envoy

Sri Lankan envoy has assured that the country pays a great deal of attention towards the evolving scenarios in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda has reiterated that the island country is fully aware of the security concerns of India and assured that it pays a great deal of attention towards the evolving scenarios in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific.

Moragoda said this on August 30 while describing about the regional dynamics and developments in the Indian Ocean at a lecture on topic ‘India-Sri Lanka Relations: Promoting Connectivity, Catalysing Prosperity’ at the Ananta Centre, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry in Colombo said in a statement.

During his address, High Commissioner Moragoda elaborated on the broad contours that define the unique characteristics of the past and present dynamics of India-Sri Lanka relationship, and the way forward.

The Foreign Ministry said that the High Commissioner explained as to how the relationship between the two nations has grown from a transactional perspective to a special relationship in recent years.

He said the current economic stabilisation efforts underway in Sri Lanka, and emphasised that the two nations would heavily focus on connectivity and investment founded on a promising economic integration road-map that was agreed upon during the recent visit of the Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Moragoda also underscored the importance of driving the five key facets mapped in the ‘India-Sri Lanka Economic Partnership Vision’ document, and highlighted that they would remain as the key enablers in elevating the existing relationship into a new level.

In July, during the first visit to India after assuming office as President, Wickremesinghe who had talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed ‘India-Sri Lanka Economic Partnership Vision’ which included a series of agreements on energy, trade and connectivity projects.

ALSO READ: India Seeks Reconciliation for Lankan Tamil Aspirations

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US, Japan, S. Korea unite against Chinese aggression

After the first-ever trilateral summit between the US, Japan and South Korea, a joint statement was released titled ‘The Spirit of Camp David’ expressing support for their collective alliance.

United States, Japan and South Korea, in a joint statement on Friday, condemned the “dangerous and aggressive behaviour” by China and expressed stern opposition against any attempt to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific.

After the first-ever trilateral summit between the three countries held in the US, a joint statement was released titled ‘The Spirit of Camp David’ expressing support for their collective alliance.

“Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States are determined to align our collective efforts because we believe our trilateral partnership advances the security and prosperity of all our people, the region, and the world,” the statement read.

The three nations expressed commitment to expanding cooperation trilaterally and raising shared ambition to a new horizon across domains and across the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

“We will strengthen our economies, provide resilience and prosperity, support the free and open international order based on the rule of law, and bolster regional and global peace and security, especially as current and incoming members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). We will strengthen our coordination on promoting democracy and protecting human rights. And we will enhance strategic coordination between the US-Japan and US-ROK alliances and bring our trilateral security cooperation to new heights,” the joint statement read.

Additionally, the joint declaration by US, Japan and South Korea expressed shared concerns over Chinese actions in supporting unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, as well as their strong opposition to any unilateral actions by Beijing aimed at changing the existing situation in the Indo-Pacific waters.

“We share concerns about actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order, which undermine regional peace and prosperity. Recalling the publicly announced position of each of our countries regarding the dangerous and aggressive behaviour supporting unlawful maritime claims that we have recently witnessed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea, we strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the waters of the Indo-Pacific,” the statement read.

They also opposed the militarization of reclaimed features; the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels and coercive activities, and further expressed concern about illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The three countries also reiterated their commitment to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, emphasizing that the basic positions on Taiwan remain unchanged, and they called for peaceful resolutions to cross-Strait matters.

“We reiterate our firm commitment to international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The July 2016 award in the South China Sea arbitration sets out the legal basis for the peaceful resolution of maritime conflicts between the parties to that proceeding. We reaffirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of security and prosperity in the international community. There is no change in our basic positions on Taiwan, and we call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the joint statement added.

They also announced holding the first trilateral meeting between the finance ministers and launching a new commerce and industry ministers track that will meet annually. An annual Trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue will also be launched to coordinate the implementation of Indo-Pacific approaches and to continually identify new areas for common action.

Expressing support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture, the three countries affirmed commitment to working closely with ASEAN partners to support robust implementation and mainstreaming of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

US, Japan and South Korea also reaffirmed the commitment towards “complete denuclearization” by North Korea in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Furthermore, we reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and urge the DPRK to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We call on all UN Member States to fully implement all relevant UNSC resolutions. We strongly condemn the DPRK’s unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches and conventional military actions that pose a grave threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” the statement read.

The three countries added that in addition to the security partnership, they will also maintain focus on building robust cooperation in the economic security and technology spheres.

“We are fully committed to continuing to eliminate barriers to economic participation and build diverse, accessible, and inclusive economies in which all our people—including women and marginalized groups—can succeed. We will work to further strengthen our people-to-people ties, including among our young people and students,” the joint statement further read.

They also stated that the trilateral summit marks a “new chapter” in their relationship and the three countries depart from Camp David with a “shared resolve and optimism for the future”.

“Today, we declare that a new chapter in our trilateral relationship has begun. We are aligned in our vision; undaunted in the face of our era’s greatest challenges; and, most of all, united in our belief that Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States can meet those challenges together, now and in the future,” the statement added. (ANI)

ALSO READ: China conducts military drills around Taiwan

-Top News India News

India-US ties key for peace in Indo-Pacific

Congressman Ferguson said India-US partnership has made significant progress in the last few years and New Delhi continues to be a strategic trading partner…reports Asian Lite News

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, Congressman from Georgia, Drew Ferguson, has emphasised that the India-US ties are important for “peace, prosperity and stability around the globe, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

PM Modi is set to travel to the US on an official visit from June 21 to 25. He will be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House. The Indian Embassy in the US released a video of Congressman Ferguson articulating his views on PM Modi’s historic state visit.

“The India-US partnership is crucial for fostering peace, prosperity and stability around the globe, especially in the Indo-Pacific region — Rep. Drew Ferguson,” read a post on the official Twitter handle of the Indian embassy in the US.

“I wanted to take a moment to recognise Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC. The relationship between the United States and India is strategic and global. It’s a partnership guided by strong political will on both sides. It’s built on the shared values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the real with law,” the Congressman said in his short video address.

He added, “This partnership is crucial for fostering peace, prosperity and stability around the globe, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. In 2022, India celebrated 75 years of independence and marked the anniversary of the United States-India diplomatic relations.”

Ferguson stated further that the India-US partnership has made significant progress in the last few years and New Delhi continues to be a strategic trading partner for the latter.

“As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade policy, I look forward to continuing to work on growing this important global partnership. Thank you to Prime Minister Modi for your continued leadership, and I hope you have a productive visit,” the Congressman stated in his video address.

Top lawmakers in the United States had earlier invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the US Congress when he visits Washington DC on June 22, a rare opportunity granted only to the country’s closest allies.

Many political leaders in the US had earlier voiced their excitement around PM Modi’s state visit while lauding the burgeoning bilateral ties between the two countries.

US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said the US was looking forward to PM Modi’s upcoming address to the Congress.

“The Congress will look forward to the state address that he will make in the United States Congress. That will be both houses of Congress. That’s a very important position to be in. We will be attentive,” Lee told ANI earlier.

Dr Bharat Barai, a popular community leader and organiser of Prime Minister Modi’s event at the Ronald Reagan Center, was effusive in his praise for the latter, calling him the “most popular public figure and leader in the world, not just in India”.

“PM Modi is the most popular public figure, and leader in the world, not just in India. The Prime Minister is extremely popular. He’s perceived as a visionary leader for India who is working tirelessly for the growth of India,” Barai said earlier.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit to the US will serve as an opportunity to enhance the commercial and strategic technology partnerships between the two nations. She specifically mentioned sectors such as defence, semiconductors, and clean energy as areas of focus.

PM Modi will be the first Indian premier to address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress twice.

Globally, as a head of government, PM Modi is second only after Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to address a joint House of the US Congress more than once. The Israeli PM has done it thrice.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries had earlier said in a message to PM Modi, “During your address, you will have the opportunity to share your vision for India’s future and speak to the global challenges both our countries face.”

PM Modi will visit the US from June 22-25 at the invitation of President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. (ANI)

ALSO READ-‘Looking forward to stronger US-India ties’

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Jaishankar, Lord Ahmad discuss FTA, Indo-Pacific

UK government said strengthening the relationship with India is a key pillar of the UK’s long-term foreign policy…reports Asian Lite News

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday held a meeting with Minister of State for Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs Lord Tariq Ahmad and discussed a range of issues including Free Trade Agreement, Indo-Pacific and G20.

“Met with UK MOS Lord @tariqahmadbt today in New Delhi. Discussed a broad range of issues, from FTA and South Asia to Indo-Pacific and G20. Underlined the obligation to ensure security of our diplomatic missions and prevent misuse of democratic freedoms,” Jaishankar said in a tweet. UK and India are working towards a mutually beneficial Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The ninth round of negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the UK was held from April 24 to 28.

Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is Minister of State for Foreign Commonwealth & Development Affairs (South Asia, MEastNAfrica, UN, Human Rights) PM’s Special Envoy for Preventing Sexual Violence, landed in India on May 27. After his arrival in India, he travelled to Jodhpur.

“…I arrived in Jodhpur, my maternal ancestral home. 76 years after my mother bid farewell to the Blue City I say ‘Salaam Jodhpur- Namaste Rajasthan’,” he said in a tweet.

“Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort is steeped in a rich and diverse history. Pleasure touring the fort today to learn more about its architecture, restoration and conservation work,” he added.

The UK government had said that focus of Lord Tariq Ahmad’s visit on science, technology and innovation emphasises the UK’s commitment to deepening partnerships in these areas across the globe – evidenced by the recent announcement of a new Tech Envoy to the Indo-Pacific.

“Strengthening the UK-India relationship is a key pillar of the UK’s long-term foreign policy, as part of its enduring engagement in the Indo-Pacific set out in the Integrated Review Refresh,” it said.

UK and India are working towards a mutually beneficial Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The ninth round of negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the UK was held from April 24 to 28.

The British High Commission in India in a statement said, “An ambitious, balanced FTA would boost our current trading relationship, worth £36 billion in 2022. ” Round nine of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of India

“A trade deal with India supports the government’s growth strategy to take advantage of the UK’s status as an independent trading nation, creating new trade and investment opportunities and championing free trade,” the British High Commission in India said in a statement.

In the statement, Lord Ahmad called India and UK “trusted partners.” He said that India and UK are deepening collaboration on science and technology.

“The UK and India are trusted partners united by the unique living bridge that closely connects our countries and people,” Lord Ahmad said in a statement.

“Building on the 2030 Roadmap for India-UK future relations, we are deepening our collaboration on science and technology, bringing new innovations to both our nations,” he added.

Lord Ahmad meets Shringla

Lord Ahmad, who is on a 5-day visit to India, met the former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla in Delhi on Monday.

Apart from the UK Minister, the former Foreign Secretary also had a brief interaction with British deputy high commissioner Christina Scott. “A great pleasure to meet Lord @tariqahmadbt, UK Minister in FCO and @CScottFCDO, UK Deputy High Commissioner @UKinIndia,” Shringla said, taking to Twitter.

During his visit, Lord Ahmad will travel to Hyderabad. He will highlight science and tech innovations with trips to T-Hub and T-Works, the technology start-up incubator and prototyping facility which are part of the world’s largest innovation campus, and space launch vehicle company Skyroot.

Lord Ahmad will visit the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology and hold discussions on the further potential for science and technology collaboration with Indian alumni of Chevening, the UK’s flagship international scholarship programme.

Christina Scott, Acting British High Commissioner to India in the statement said, “The UK and India enjoy an invaluable partnership. As we deliver the UK-India Roadmap 2030, we are deepening and accelerating our collaboration on health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence. “

Scott further said, “With India’s Presidency of the G20, we have an opportunity also for the UK and India to work together to shape and deliver solutions to global problems.” Notably, India assumed the G20 Presidency on December 1. (ANI)

ALSO READ-Challenge from China is complicated, says Jaishankar

-Top News Asia News Bangladesh

Bangladesh key for peace in the Indo-Pacific

Indian Ocean, according to a analyst, is the “epicenter of Indo-Pacific” and any policy regarding the Indo-Pacific will necessarily include the Indian Ocean because it provides opportunities for outreach to Africa on one hand and South East Asia on the other, thereby facilitating the integration of the Indo-Pacific, writes Darakhsha Qamar

The 6th Indian Ocean Conference took place on the 12th and 13th May in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As the current chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Bangladesh hosted the event and Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, inaugurated it.

The Conference was started in 2016- having being previously hosted in countries like Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam- and has since then become an important platform for all the countries in the Indian Ocean Region to come together, consult and cooperate with one another to ensure peace, prosperity and stability in the region. In fact, it has become instrumental in the implementation of India’s Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative. The theme of the conference this year was “Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future,” and it was attended by guests from 25 countries.

The strategic importance of the Indian Ocean cannot be stressed upon enough.  Its trade routes have been facilitating the flow of goods, people and ideas between the areas of Asia- pacific and North Atlantic since ancient times. It retains its position of eminence today as an important trade route that has a major portion of the world’s crude oil supply passing through it. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is also rich in mineral resources as well as a massive drainage basin that is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world as well as a large chunk of the world’s population. This region is brimful of potential and greater regional integration can transform this region, turning it into a thriving economic hub.

It is, however, this very inability to cooperate effectively with each other as well as the inability to put broader regional and global interests before narrow national interests, that has resulted in the IOR facing security threats from non-state actors such as smugglers, pirates and terrorists.

The Indian Ocean of course has great strategic significance for India, which is the most populous state and one of the biggest powers in the IOR. India has 7500 Km of its coastline in the Indian Ocean and is dependent on it for energy imports through the Indian Ocean route, which is why India has a major stake in the security and development of the IOR. India also realizes that it cannot achieve this vision of a secure and stable Indian Ocean on its own and has been seeking to enhance cooperation and connectivity amongst the states in the region.

In fact, the SAGAR initiative, which serves as India’s policy towards the Indian Ocean, was introduced, just like the Indian Ocean Conference, in 2016, and aims at ensuring the maritime security of the states of the IOR. At the same time, it also promoted economic partnerships as well as collaboration in matters of tourism, infrastructural development and laying the groundwork for sustainable development in the region.

The Indian Ocean Conference thus has become a major facilitator of India’s ambitions regarding the IOR. This was evident during India’s external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar’s keynote address at the conference, where he stressed on the need for enhanced connectivity in the region and the restoration of ancient links between the countries of the region that had been disrupted by imperialism. He talked about the importance of India developing land connectivity with South East Asia and multi-modal connectivity with the Gulf and Central Asian countries. He also emphasised that India is prioritizing connectivity with ASEAN, as that, in his words, “will be a game changer.” Further on in the speech, he said that ensuring maritime security is a shared responsibility and it would require all the countries in the region to exchange information and cooperate with one another for coastal surveillance and collaborating on Maritime domain awareness (MDA).

Most importantly however, Jaishankar stressed on the significance of the Indian Ocean as a central component of the Indo-Pacific region and therefore the challenges being faced by IOR countries cannot be undermined and needs to be dealt with properly, if the vision of a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific is to become a reality. This was reiterated by author, leading South Asian strategic analyst and founder of StratNews Global, Nitin Gokhale, who was a guest at the 2 day conference in Dhaka.

Gokhale told India Narrative that the Indian Ocean is the “epicenter of Indo-Pacific” and any policy regarding the Indo-Pacific will necessarily include the Indian Ocean because it provides opportunities for outreach to Africa on one hand and South East Asia on the other, thereby facilitating the integration of the Indo-Pacific. Further, speaking on the significance of Bangladesh hosting the event, and it’s importance in the overall Indo-pacific, Gokhale said that considering the fact that Bangladesh is “the epicenter of the epicenter (the Indian Ocean), it is but natural that Bangladesh should host the Indian Ocean Conference.”

He also pointed out that having released its Indo-Pacific Outlook last month, Bangladesh has sought to take center stage in supporting a peaceful and inclusive Indo-Pacific for all and can in fact be instrumental for outreach to the pacific as well as the Indian Ocean.

BBIN and South Asian railway network

The Indian railways recently completed the survey for the feasibility of a railway line connecting Kokrajhar in Assam, India, to Gelephu in Bhutan. During the Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s  visit to India, both the countries engaged in talks where they sought to prioritise enhancing connectivity between the two countries, mainly by expediting the completion of the above mentioned rail link. The first stage of the primary engineering work is reportedly complete and there all already talks to connect other regions through the railway network, such as Samtse, Phuentsholing, Nganglam and Samdrupjongkhar.

This news comes amidst the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) countries’ renewed interest in using transnational railway networks as an important tool of regional integration in the sub-region. The pre-requisite to economic development anywhere is good connectivity and the BBIN countries have sought to, over the years build a trans-regional communication and transportation infrastructure. The most significant part of this infrastructure is the building and in some case resuscitation of railway networks between the BBIN countries.

Railways networks connecting South Asian countries is not a new phenomenon since there were many railway routes connecting India and Bangladesh since colonial times. The renewed interest in railways can further, also be attributed to the fact that railways are the most climate-efficient option for the movement of goods and people over long distances. It would lead to reduced carbon emissions for the BBIN countries and therefore the entire sub-region.

Apart from Bhutan, the other 3 countries are connected to each other by at least one railway line and the railways have good connectivity with ports facilitating trade in and through the sub-region. Bhutan, where roadways have been the main mode of transportation, does not have an operational rail network, but has been for some time considering developing a railway network for greater connectivity within the country as well as with its neighbouring BBIN countries. In fact it also signed a MoU with India in 2005 to develop, and set up five railway lines connecting both the countries.

That plan however did not come to fruition all these years, until now.  India’s decision to proceed with the much delayed railway connectivity project with Bhutan, comes at a time when Chinese presence along the Line of Actual Control has been increasing steadily. In such a climate, this railway link could be instrumental in enabling India to secure its borders against China.

The first ever passenger rail link between Jaynagar, India and Kurtha in Nepal too was inaugurated only last year. The only other railway line is between Raxual (India) to Sirsiya (Nepal), but is mainly used for freight movement. Nepal, like Bhutan is a landlocked country and has much to gain through the development of railway connectivity.

It could lead to the relaxation of roadway traffic in these countries and  reduce trade dependency on roadways. Further, access to low-cost railway services would also help both the countries to trade in resources and products that are not feasible to be transported through roadways. Nepal also has plans to develop a 1024km long East-west corridor that would connect, through a rail network, 24 districts spanning the entire length of Nepal,  from Kakarvitta, in Jhapa district to Mahendranagar, in Kanchapur district. This project is expected to produce big economic returns for Nepal, by generating employment and enabling simple and cost effective movement of people and goods across Nepal.

There are currently, five operational railway links between India and Bangladesh and the most recent one to be resuscitated is the Haldibari (West Bengal) to Chilahati line, which had stopped being in operation since 1965. This line is expected to increase railway access to main ports and dry ports in order to bring about economic development and social upliftment of the entire region, including Assam.

Further, it is expected to better connect this region to the rest of the country through the Siliguri Corridor. The other rail lines, used variously for passenger and freight travel, are,  The Petrapole-Benapole line- through which, an estimated 70% of the trade between India and Bangladesh takes place; The Gede-Darshana line, which falls within the proposed route of the Trans-Asian Railways and could help connect North-East India to South-East Asia; the Singhabad-Rohanpur line and The Radhikapur-Birol line.

Furthermore, the recently constructed Padma Multipurpose Bridge in Bangladesh is also expected to strengthen the physical connectivity between the two countries.

The four states making up BBIN, with their geographically contiguous borders and cultural links rooted in a common past and a long history of intra-regional trade and people to people connections, together form a South Asian Growth Quadrangle. Due to the interdependent nature of these states in political, cultural and economic matters, there is immense potential for overall economic development through increased connectivity and cooperation with each other.

Initiatives promoting greater regional connectivity, such as the- in some cases developed, in others proposed- transnational railway are mutually beneficial for all parties involved, providing them with an opportunity to utilise shared resources in a sustainable and rewarding manner allowing skill, as well the possibility of technology and knowledge transfer from more developed states to less developed states.

It also provides a way for smaller countries to hold their own and secure their own interests- with the help of its regional allies- in the midst of great power politics, resulting in the development of the entire region as a whole.  India has long understood this and has, especially in the last decade, made the BBIN initiative a priority and an important part of its sub-regional diplomacy efforts.

Not only does India seek to build sub-regional connectivity through BBIN, it also hopes to leverage this sub-regional partnership to develop connectivity with South East Asia.

The geographical proximity and sharing of borders of these countries with India’s north-east would also provide a way to develop the whole of north-east through cross-border efforts, as well as increase its accessibility vis-a- vis the rest of the country. In such a context, the development and resuscitation of cross-border railway networks is expected to transform connectivity in the BBIN region.  And as we now understand, stronger ties between the states would only lead to greater peace and stability in the region, with each country being able to pursue their individual security interests while prioritising collective economic development.

ALSO READ: Nepal and Bangladesh collaborate on power trading via India

-Top News Canada India News

India, Canada boost ties with shared vision for Indo-Pacific

Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs met Canadian Foreign Ministry’s Assistant Deputy Ministers Weldon Epp and Alexandre Leveque and shared a vision for a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region.

“Secy (East) @AmbSaurabhKumar met Assistant Deputy Ministers in the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Weldon Epp & Alexandre Leveque. Discussed ways to strengthen India-Canada relations & our shared vision for a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Last month, on April 11, India-Canada Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) on April 11 in Ottawa during which both sides discussed contemporary regional issues including the Indo-Pacific region and cooperation in multilateral organizations a statement by the MEA read.

The Indian delegation was led by Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) in the MEA while the Canadian side was headed by David Morrison, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs Canada.

“They welcomed regular dialogue and meetings of bilateral mechanisms, including upcoming Ministerial visits which would help broaden the bilateral agenda,” the MEA said.

“In the context of India’s ongoing G20 Presidency, Canada expressed support for India’s leadership. Both sides will work together to ensure G20’s success,” it added.

The last FOCs were held in March 2022 and according to the official statement, the next FOC will take place in India. Before that the FOCs were held in March 2021 in a virtual mode.

India and Canada share warm relations. In February, Canada’s External Affairs Minister Melanie Joly visited India and met her Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar.

During the India-Canada Strategic Dialogue, both ministers expressed interest in deepening collaboration across domains and looking forward to the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA).

Canada and India have deep ties built on shared democratic values and a long-standing friendship. The wide-ranging bilateral cooperation between Canada and India spans the fields of science and technology, finance, education, defence, and security.

The deep people-to-people connections between Canada and India are at the heart of our relationship. There are 1.8 million Canadians of Indian origin in Canada, and India is the primary source of new immigrants to Canada, the release said.

India and Canada are engaged in technical negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) including trade in goods, services, investment, trade facilitation etc. Separate MOUs exist with implementation mechanisms to advance relations in the fields of energy, mining, agriculture etc. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Canada puts Moosewala murder accused Goldy Brar on most wanted list

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Dhaka slowly embracing Indo-Pacific strategy

Participation in the US Indo-Pacific Strategy would bring Bangladesh closer to key trade and investment partners, writes Saleem Samad

Bangladesh is visibly and invisibly leaning towards the superpowers including the United States, China and Russia. But it also has friends and allies in the Middle East. India has been a proven friend, which has partnered Bangladesh’s development.

Bangladesh is now inching closer to embracing the Indo-Pacific Strategy, despite the country’s professed non aligned foreign policy.

However, Bangladesh has never strayed from its founding principle of nonalignment and wisdom drawn from its independence hero Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which can be summed up as Friendship to all and malice toward none.

Bangladesh essentially aims to balance relations with rival states. Many explain that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not keep eggs in one basket. Thus, she wants to maintain diplomatic, economic and strategic partnerships albeit “unequally” with the United States, Russia, China, European Union, Arabs and of course India.

A month ago, the private news agency United News of Bangladesh (UNB) wrote that Dhaka has finalised a draft of its Indo-Pacific Outlook focused on objectives that mirror those of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The draft plan dwells upon the need for a free, secure, and peaceful region, according to Foreign Policy’s South Asia brief prepared by Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Centre, a nonpartisan research enterprise based in Washington DC.

Bangladesh It appears is moving closer to a full embrace of the Indo-Pacific Strategy pursued by the Americans and its partners in the region, which revolves around countering China. This move comes as the US and a few key allies have signalled that Bangladesh should be a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, according to the brief.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in New Delhi recently unveiled a new plan for the region, calling for strategic collaborations with Bangladesh, including a new economic partnership agreement.

A deep-sea port under construction in southern Bangladesh is shaping up to be a strategic linchpin for Japan and India as the Quad partners aim to counter Chinese influence, writes Nikkei Asia, an influential Japanese economic and finance media outlet.

Dhaka has friendly ties with the USA, and other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad) including India, and Europe.

Development of the deep-sea port of Matarbari – a natural gateway to both South and Southeast Asia will put a Japan-backed facility just north of Sonadia, another prime location on the Bay of Bengal where China was expected to develop a port. But the Chinese facility did not materialise. Dhaka silently dropped the idea a few years ago, which caused diplomatic hullabaloo with Beijing.

Some leading pundits tend to declare a strategic victory for India in a South Asian great game between big powers. Anu Anwar, a research associate at the Fairbank Centre for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, told Nikkei Asia the Sonadia port deal with China did not succeed because of India’s opposition, which the [government] in Dhaka could not simply override due to its overreliance on Delhi.  Also, India’s tag-team partner, Japan is also considered a winner in this scenario, though some observers see no game at all, says Faisal Mahmud and Ryohtaroh Satoh in a joint article in Nikkei Asia.

In New Delhi, Kishida said the industrial value chain from the deep-sea port in the Bay of Bengal and the hinterland of landlocked northeast states [so-called Seven Sisters] of India which neighbours China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, will be immensely beneficial from “the growth of the entire region. Japanese, Indian and Bangladeshi officials also discussed the plans with G. Kishan Reddy, India’s federal minister for the northeast, welcoming Japan’s initiative, Reuters reported.

An Independence Day message from US chief executive Joseph R. Biden to Sheikh Hasina has caught the attention of many political observers. Bangladesh is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in January next year, Biden “reminded of the deep value both of our nations’ people place on democracy, equality, respect for human rights, and free and fair elections.” The message ended with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla’ (Victory for Bangladesh), which enthralled masses in Bangladesh.

A series of statements from the chief executive of the United States and other bigwigs of the country demonstrates that the stars are shining brightly over Bangladesh’s sky. In fact, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken flattered Bangladesh and said the country is “quickly becoming a regional leader.”

On the occasion of the 52nd anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh, the United States Congress introduced a resolution on 29 March recognising and commending Bangladesh and its remarkable socioeconomic progress under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, official news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) reported. The resolution said Bangladesh has successfully maintained a moderate Muslim society and curbed extremism in the country, but falls short of describing Bangladesh as a secular and pluralistic nation.

Despite the heart-warming tete-a-tete messages, Sheikh Hasina last week in the parliament in Dhaka did not hesitate to lambast America: “They are lecturing us on democracy and human rights. What’s the situation in their country?”

Amid the dilemma to decide or not to decide on a strategic partnership, China has stepped up its influence in Bangladesh through mega-infrastructure loans, which US officials have privately described as “bad deals” for the country.

It’s indeed an intriguing question as to why Bangladesh wishes to be associated with the Indo-Pacific Strategy and its goal of countering China. No doubt, participation in the US Indo-Pacific Strategy would bring Bangladesh closer to key trade and investment partners.

China is also a major supplier of arms to Bangladesh. So, getting Dhaka’s buy-in to the US-sponsored Indo-Pacific vision would be a strategic victory.

The current governments in Bangladesh and India are very close, and New Delhi is likely to have encouraged Dhaka to embrace the strategy, according to the brief by Wilson Centre.

Even as Bangladesh embraces the Indo-Pacific Strategy, it is still trying to placate China. Dhaka’s draft Indo-Pacific Outlook stipulates that it seeks to avoid rivalries and has no security goals, read the brief.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – includes many states that have cordial relations with China – opted for the same term in its Indo-Pacific coalition. Dhaka has also not indicated that it would join the Quad. Several visits of high-profile dignitaries in recent times from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union enforce that “these countries would want Bangladesh to take part in the Indo-Pacific Strategy read the brief.

Kugelman said Bangladesh has become a battleground for great power competition. It is strategically located, bordering India and serving as a gateway to both South and Southeast Asia. China is definitely concerned about the development of a regional strategic alliance. A few weeks ago, the Chinese Ambassador Yao Wen to Bangladesh squarely blamed Washington for pushing Dhaka into the US-backed Quad against China.

To deepen relations with China, Bangladesh could certainly back off from the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Bangladesh appears to believe its interests aren’t compromised by stretching the limits of nonalignment, according to the brief.

In the coming years, when the dozens of mega-projects funded by Japan, China, Russia and India are finally implemented, it could be understood which superpower and regional powers wins the heart and minds of Bangladesh.

(Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. Views expressed are personal.  Twitter: @saleemsamad)

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G7 says cooperating with India key in Indo-Pacific

The comments came on the last day of the foreign ministers meeting held in Japan and comes ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit to be held in Hiroshima…reports Asian Lite News

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday reiterated the importance of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and cooperating with India as well as reaffirmed their commitment to promoting cooperation in line with the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

The comments mark the culmination of a three-day long meeting that were held in Karuizawa, Nagano in central Japan and comes ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit to be held in Hiroshima this May. “We reiterate the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive, prosperous, secure, based on the rule of law, and that protects shared principles including sovereignty, territorial integrity and peaceful resolution of disputes, fundamental freedoms and human rights,” the joint comminique stated.

“We reaffirm individual initiatives of the G7 members and welcome those of our partners to enhance their engagement with the region. We underscore our commitment to further strengthening our 3 coordination among the G7 on the region, to working with regional partners, including ASEAN and its member states,” it read.

The G7 ministers said they reaffirmed their unwavering support for ASEAN centrality and unity and our commitment to promoting cooperation in line with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

The ministers also reaffirmed their partnership with Pacific Island countries and reiterate the importance of supporting their priorities and needs, in accordance with the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, including through the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2024.

“We welcome and further encourage efforts made by the private sector, universities and think tanks, which contribute to realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific,” they said.

On April 17, the second day of the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, Japan’s foreign minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, hosted the “Indo-Pacific” session which he explained his country’s views “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” and the New Plan for a FOIP. The G7 Foreign Ministers expressed their support, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Hayashi also stated that, with the emerging and developing countries known as the “Global South” facing a variety of issues, the G7 intends to work together with them to tackle these issues.

“Furthermore, in addition to underscoring the importance of cooperating with India, the G7 Foreign Ministers shared the view to increase engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including ASEAN and the Pacific Island countries, and, as part of the G7 framework, to regularize discussions and strengthen cooperation in relation to the Indo-Pacific,” the statement by Japanese ministry of foreign affairs read.

Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida had unveiled the Japanese plan for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) while delivering a speech entitled “The Future of the Indo-Pacific-Japan’s New Plan for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific-Together with India, as an Indispensable Partner” at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in New Delhi on March 20 this year. He had said “India is an indispensable partner” to achieve the objectives of FOIP.

Meanwhile, at the G-7 ministers’ meeting in Karuizawa, regarding Southeast Asia, Japanese foreign minister Hayashi stated the need for the G7 to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN in the medium and long term, while supporting ASEAN centrality and unity, and the importance of cooperating with ASEAN in line with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).

The G7 Foreign Ministers meeting was presided by Yoshimasa and attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Candian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, and Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora. (ANI)

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On India visit, South Korean FM calls for free, open Indo-Pacific

During his visit, the South Korean Foreign Minister held a meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar and called on Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar….reports Asian Lite News

Marking 50 years of India- South Korea relations, Foreign Minister Park Jin arrived in New Delhi on Friday on his first official visit to the country.

“A warm welcome to FM Park Jin of the Republic of Korea on his first official visit to India. As India and South Korea celebrate 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, the visit will strengthen our Special Strategic Partnership,” Ministry of External Affairs’ Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in his tweet.

During his visit, the South Korean Foreign Minister held a meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar and called on Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar.

In his opening remarks during the bilateral meeting with the visiting South Korean Foreign Minister, EAM Jaishankar said, “I know this is your first visit to India as Foreign Minister, I hope there will be many more; and I certainly assure you this will be a very productive visit.”

In recent years, India and South Korea relations have become truly multidimensional, spurred by a significant convergence of interests, mutual goodwill, and high-level exchanges.

At the bilateral meeting, EAM S Jaishankar held wide-ranging talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Jin and discussed issues of bilateral interests. “I am really glad today to have the opportunity to take forward our special strategic partnership. This is also the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations,” Jaishankar said.

In his opening remarks, the South Korean Foreign Minister highlighted the commonalities between the two countries and their commitment to the Indo-Pacific. “We are both exemplary democracies, vibrant economies and cultural powers and we are both committed to contributing to a free, open, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Park Jin said.

“South Korea and India are natural partners and I have a strong belief that the special strategic partnership between our countries is the strongest partnership in the Indo-Pacific region,” the South Korean Foreign Minister said.

The South Korean Foreign Minister spoke in Hindi in his opening remarks during the meeting with EAM S Jaishankar. He expressed his gratitude towards India for giving him and his delegates a warm welcome. “Muje India aakar aur aapse milkar bahut kushi ho rahi hai. Aapke swagat ke liye bahut-bahut dhanyawad (I am very happy with my visit to India and thereafter, my meeting with you. Thanks for the warm welcome).”

Following the implementation of CEPA in 2010, India and South Korea enjoy strong economic relations. Bilateral trade in 2021 reached record level at US $23.7 billion despite a pandemic year.

Major items of India’s exports to Korea are mineral fuels/oil distillates (mainly naphtha), cereals, iron, and steel.

On the other hand, Korea’s main export items are automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and parts and iron and steel products.

India and ROK launched an initiative ‘Korea Plus’, as proposed by Prime Minister Modi in June 2016 in India to promote and facilitate Korean Investments in India. A Korea India SME and Start-up Centre was launched in September 2019. According to data from Korea Exim Bank, ROK’s total FDI to India up to December 2021 stands at US$ 7.27 billion.

Investment from India to Korea is to the tune of approximately US$ 3 billion led by Tata Daewoo, Ssangyong and Novelis. In total, there are more than 603 large and small Korean firms operating in India.

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