PM to hold 9 bilateral meets with visiting Asean leaders

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host nine back-to-back bilateral meetings with Asean leaders starting Wednesday and in the run up to the unprecedented presence of as many as 10 heads of state and government at the Republic Day parade.

Modi will have a separate bilateral meeting with Cambodian PM Hun Sen who will stay back for a state visit on January 27. All 10 leaders will be participating in the India Asean commemorative summit on January 25 which is being held to mark 25 years of dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction and five years of strategic partnership.

Maritime cooperation and security will be the main focus at the summit with India and Asean expected to underscore the significance of freedom of navigation and respect for international law in the region.

This is significant in the light of growing Chinese assertiveness and irredentism in South China Sea. While looking to realise the full potential of their ocean economy, India and Asean will look to step up cooperation in countering terrorism, piracy and other transnational crimes. Modi will hold meetings with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President of Philippines Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday itself after their arrival in New Delhi for the summit on 25 January.

There will be a leaders’ retreat during which the leaders will have a “free and frank” discussion on 25 January. The theme of the retreat is ‘maritime cooperation and security’. Following the retreat, a plenary session will take place on the same day. Asean comprises Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.

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