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Oct 29, 2021 / 04:45

India urged to support ASEAN stance on South China Sea

Both ASEAN and India highlighted the importance of promoting a rules-based order through upholding adherence to international law.

Vietnam expects India to continue supporting ASEAN’s efforts in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam).

Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the 18th ASEAN-India Summit on Oct 28. Photos: VGP

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made the statement at the 18th ASEAN-India Summit held via videoconference on October 28.

The support will enable ASEAN member states and India to boost maritime cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight, marine ecosystem preservation, research and rescue, Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU), and pirate, Chinh said.

Sharing at the meeting, both ASEAN and India noted the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region including through upholding adherence to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The countries reaffirmed the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) which guide ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions.

It helps promote an Indo-Pacific region that embraces ASEAN Centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, a rules-based framework, good governance, respect for sovereignty, nonintervention, and complementarity with mutual respect, trust, benefit, and respect for international law, including the UN Charter and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Addressing the event, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched upon a range of key issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the South China Sea issue, and stressed how ASEAN members play an important role in India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed India’s commitment to strengthen ties with ASEAN countries, saying the two sides would enhance mutual cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

He stressed that the unity and centrality of ASEAN have always been a priority for India. “History is a witness that India and ASEAN have had lively relations for thousands of years. It is reflected in our shared values, traditions, languages, scriptures, architecture, culture, food. That is why the unity and centrality of ASEAN have always been a priority for India,” he said.

The discussions between the two sides covered all regional and international issues of common interest and concern, including terrorism.

Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, he said “Due to Covid-19, all of us had to face a lot of challenges. This challenging time was also a test of the India-ASEAN friendship. Our cooperation in the Covid-19 era will keep strengthening our relations in the future and form a base for goodwill between our people.”

 The 18th ASEAN-India Summit.


The ASEAN leaders appreciated India’s role as a trusted partner in the region, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic with its supply of vaccines. They also welcomed India’s support to ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific and looked forward to greater India-ASEAN cooperation in the region.

The leaders exchanged views on enhancing India-ASEAN connectivity in broadest terms including physical, digital, and people to people. To further strengthen India-ASEAN cultural connectivity, Modi said India will support for establishing the ASEAN Cultural Heritage List. On trade and investment, he underlined the importance of diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid economic recovery and in this regard, the need to revamp the India-ASEAN FTA.

For a broader range, the leaders are committed to supporting ASEAN Community building and strengthening the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership across the whole spectrum of political security, economic, socio-cultural, and development cooperation by utilizing relevant existing ASEAN-led mechanisms and fora, including the ASEAN-India Summit, East Asia Summit (EAS), the Post Ministerial Conference with India (PMC+1), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

Both sides reinforce the ASEAN-centered regional architecture that is strengthened by ASEAN’s Community building processes in dealing with challenges and by seizing opportunities with a focus on the open, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture, economic cooperation, and strengthened confidence and trust.

A joint statement on cooperation on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific was released. It is called one of the very major highlights of this summit. It charts the way forward for practical implementation of the convergence in a vision of Indo-Pacific.

Notably, the leaders declared the year 2022 as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year as it marks 30 years of the ASEAN-India partnership. A series of activities will be conducted around the year to commemorate the event.