Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you very much for joining us for this special media briefing on the occasion of Prime Minister's visit to Jakarta for the India-ASEAN summit as well as the East Asia summit. To give us a sense of this visit, we have with us Secretary (East), Saurabh Kumar, as well as Joint Secretary (Indo-Pacific) Smt. Geetika Srivastava. Sir, I’ll hand over the floor to you for opening remarks.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Thank you. Thank you, Arindam. Good afternoon, friends. Namaskar. Thank you for joining us today for this briefing on the upcoming visit of the Honourable Prime Minister to Jakarta for the ASEAN-related meetings. At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr. Joko Widodo, Prime Minister will visit Jakarta for the 20th ASEAN-India summit and the 18th East Asia summit, scheduled for the 7th of September. Prime Minister will participate in the ASEAN-India summit along with Heads of State/Government of the ASEAN member states. East Asia summit, as you know, brings together at the leadership level, ASEAN members and eight dialogue partners, which are Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
Prime Minister will depart Delhi on the night of 6th September and return late evening on the 7th September. Given that the G20 summit follows shortly after the ASEAN Summits, it will be a short visit. We are appreciative of the Indonesian Government for making adjustments to the ASEAN meeting schedule so as to facilitate Prime Minister's program and his early return. By way of background, this will be the 9th ASEAN-India Summit to be attended by the Prime Minister. The summit, in a sense, is special since it is the first one after the elevation of India-ASEAN relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which happened last year. During the summit, Prime Minister will review the progress in ASEAN-India relations and provide them with further direction. India's relations with ASEAN are a central pillar of our Act East policy, as well as of India's vision of the wider Indo-Pacific.
India and ASEAN have a comprehensive engagement covering a wide array of areas at all levels, including seven ministerial engagements besides several official level ones. India and ASEAN share similar vision for the Indo-Pacific and are committed to building on the synergy between ASEAN's Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. This year, Indonesia is the chair of ASEAN. The theme of their chairship is ‘ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth’. Within this framework, Indonesia organized a flagship event, ‘ASEAN Indo-Pacific Forum’, to implement ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. This is an event which is focused on increasing connectivity of ASEAN to the Indo-Pacific by involvement of businesses and industries, so it's a track 1.5 event which they have organized. India contributed to this by organizing a panel discussion on digital public infrastructure and its importance for enhancing digital transformation and inclusivity.
Let me also give you a brief sense of the activities we undertook with ASEAN this year. Last year, India and ASEAN, as you know, celebrated the 30th anniversary of their partnership, and a number of events and activities were organized. We have continued with our active engagement with ASEAN this year as well. Our focus has been on enhancing comprehensive connectivity with ASEAN in all aspects, including physical, digital, economic, and people-to-people. In August this year, India and Indonesia established direct flight connectivity through Indigo and Batik Air flights. We also have started direct flights with Vietnam. Earlier in February, Prime Minister, along with his Singapore counterpart, launched the real-time cross-border payment link between UPI and Singapore's Pay Now. We are looking at ways to expand this to other ASEAN countries.
This year's calendar also included ASEAN-India Youth Summit held in Hyderabad in February, where 175 youth from ASEAN countries and India interacted with each other. India and ASEAN also held a conference on traditional medicines in July focusing on pandemics. The India-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership aims to further deepen practical cooperation in areas including maritime, cyber security, digital economy, as well as in new and emerging areas of cooperation. In May this year, India and ASEAN organized their first maritime exercise. The first ASEAN-India Defense Ministers’ meeting was held in November last year. Trade and business-to-business ties are integral to our relations with ASEAN. The fifth ASEAN-India Business Summit was held in March this year in Kuala Lumpur with the aim to enhance business connectivity and supply chain resilience. In 2022-23, India and ASEAN registered a bilateral trade of US $131.5 billion. It accounted for over 11% of India's trade for the year and was the second highest after India-EU trade. You might recall that during ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ meeting earlier in August, the two sides started the review of ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement and agreed for its completion by 2025. The objective of the review is to make AITIGA, which is the ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement, more friendly and trade-facilitative, as well as to enhance and diversify trade while addressing the current asymmetries.
A few words on East Asia Summit, and I'll conclude after that. East Asia Summit is the foremost of the ASEAN-centered mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific. Since its inception in 2005, it has played a significant role in providing a platform for dialogue and discussion on matters of strategic importance to the region. India as the founding member of the East Asia Summit has been committed to strengthening of the mechanism and making it more effective to deal with contemporary challenges. The synergy between ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, AOIP, and Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative makes East Asia Summit an important platform to promote practical cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The new East Asia Summit Plan of Action, which was adopted during the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in July this year, also prioritizes cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. At the forthcoming East Asia Summit, Prime Minister and other leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen the EAS mechanism, as well as exchange views on matters of regional and international interest. Thank you.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, sir. I'll open the floor for questions.
Yeshi Seli: Good afternoon. This is Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. Is PM Modi likely to have any bilaterals with other leaders coming for the summit? And is any bilateral expected with the Chinese Premier Li Qiang?
Nayanima Basu: Sir, Nayanima from ABP Live. I just want to understand what will be the discussions around issues on Myanmar. Because ASEAN had some reservations earlier, but I think now they are okay with it. If you can give some information on that. Thank you.
Siddhant: Hi, sir. I'm Siddhant from WION. How much focus India will be putting on the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN centrality during Prime Minister's address during various meetings?
Shashank Mattoo: Thank you, sir. Shashank Mattoo with the Mint. You mentioned the ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement. What specifically will be on the cards in terms of India's demands from ASEAN in terms of what we want from it? And also, will the Trade and Services Agreement as well be brought up in terms of the fact that India wants to renegotiate that?
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: To be honest, your question is a little beyond the visit. But I think I'll just… sir may like to address that.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Yeshi, I think, as I mentioned, this is a very short visit because Prime Minister would be hosting the G20. And the effort is to participate in this important summit and get back home as quickly as possible because Prime Minister is the host for the G20. So there would not be any bilaterals during the course of the visit.
Nayanima, you mentioned about Myanmar. Myanmar, of course, like other regional and international issues, is likely to come up in the discussions. Our position on Myanmar is very clear. So I would leave it at that. And once we have the post-summit briefing, if there is anything more, I would add to that.
Siddhant, ASEAN centrality, I think, is a central point of our message to the ASEAN. So this definitely would be communicated. And I think some of it came out in my presentation also.
Shashank, trade in goods… I think, I just mentioned that the Trade Ministers’ Meeting took place in August. And that is a track on which AITIGA review process would take place. So I think while trade would be referred to in general terms, but specifics of trade would be discussed in that particular forum. Thank you.
Madhurendra: Sir, Madhurendra main News Nation se. Jo China ka naya map hain woh ASEAN ke kai deshon sahit Bharat ke samprabhuta par sawal khada karta hain. Kya is mudde par koi baatchit hogi? Kya agende mai hoga?
[Questioned in Hindi: Approximate translation] Sir, I'm Madhurendra from News Nation. The new map of China challenges India's sovereignty, including that of several ASEAN countries. Will there be any discussions on this issue? Will it be on the agenda?
Sidhant: Hi, sir. I'm Sidhant from CNN News 18. Sir, my question is same what Madhurendra sir asked. So this one is regarding the map which has been issued by China. And since all these nations in Indo-Pacific came out with a statement opposing the map China claiming their territory, so can we see some sort of a consensus being built on the sidelines of this summit and can we come out with some sort of a statement, strong statement against Chinese expansionist policies? Thank you.
Manish Jha: Sir main Manish Jha hoon TV9 se. Aapne abhi bataya ki Prime Minister ke schedule ko dekhte hue Indonesia ne apne karyakram mai thoda adjustment kiya hain, agar aap thoda sa use bata sake detail mai ke pahle kya tha and kis tarah se adjustment kiya gaya? Thank you.
[Question in Hindi: Approximate translation] Sir, I am Manish Jha from TV9. You just mentioned that Indonesia has made some adjustments to its program based on the Prime Minister's schedule. If you could please provide a bit more detail about how it was before and how the adjustment was made? Thank you.
Sridhar: Sir, Sridhar from the Asian Age. Sir, recently during the visit of the Filipino leader, we had made it very clear that the international tribunal verdict in the South China Sea has to be respected, the award which came out in the favor of Philippines a few years ago. Will this issue also be addressed at the summit or raised by India?
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think many of these are bilateral issues, but I would leave it to you Sir.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): So I think let me club the first two and the last question, which are about the Chinese map and about the tribunal. It is difficult to anticipate what would be discussed when the leaders meet, but issues which are of mutual concern, regional and international, would all come up once they have their discussion. Whether there would be a consensus or not, I mean, I can't anticipate what would come out of the discussions.
Manish, you asked about the adjustment in the program. Both the summits had been kept for the 7th, so as to facilitate Prime Minister coming back early. The Indonesian side was kind enough to advance the East Asia Summit timing a little bit so that Prime Minister could come back early.
Main hindi mai bhi bol deta hoon, aapne shayad prashna hindi mai pucha tha. Pradhan Mantri ji wapas jaldi aa sake usko dhyan mai rakhte hue Indonesian side ne jo ki East Asia Summit ka jo timing hain woh thoda sa afternoon mai pahle tha, usko advance kar ke forenoon mai kar diya, toh nau se dus baje tak ASEAN India summit hoga, 15 minute ka uske baad gap hoga, aur uske baad East Asia Summit hoga. Toh Pradhan Mantri ji uske baad free ho jayenge aur wapas aa sakte hain.
[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] I can also answer in Hindi; perhaps you asked the question in Hindi. Taking into account the possibility of Prime Minister's early return, the Indonesian side adjusted the timing of the East Asia Summit. Originally, it was scheduled for the afternoon, but they moved it to the forenoon. So, the ASEAN-India Summit will take place from 9 AM to 10 AM, followed by a 15-minute gap, and then the East Asia Summit will begin. This way, Prime Minister will be free to return after that.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much sir.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Main hindi mai bol deta hoon. Maine jo abhi bataya hain, jitne bhi regional aur international mudde jo mutual concern ke hain sambhavana hain woh leaders is forum mai discuss karenge. Abhi ye kehna mushkil hain specific terms mai, ki issue a, ya issue b, discuss hoga ya nahi hoga.
[Answer in Hindi: Approximate translation] I'll say it in English. What I just mentioned is that all the regional and international issues of mutual concern are likely to be discussed by leaders in this forum. Right now, it's difficult to specify whether issue A or issue B will be discussed or not in specific terms.
Suhasini Haider: I did want to ask one question about the ASEAN reaction to India's position on bringing African Union into the G20. Given that ASEAN is not a member of the G20 and is an observer like the AU, has ASEAN asked to bring this up in any of the meetings in Jakarta. And since you referred to the Prime Minister returning for the G20, today the Ministry of External Affairs has sent out invitations for a banquette that have the word Bharat. Normally Bharat is used in Hindi invitations but in English invitations you have written Republic of Bharat, the President of the Republic of Bharat invites the dignitaries. So I just wanted to ask if there is an official notification on the changing of the name, or is it just usage?
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I am not sure that was at all related to the visit...
Suhasini Haider: [Inaudible]
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, that’s true but you can’t bring in, this is pushing that envelope, and I think we will let that be for on President’s behalf. But on the G20 question also I didn’t get that, ASEAN is not in G20, your question was have they raised the issue with us?
Suhasini Haider: Yeah.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay would ASEAN like to be a G20 member, is that the context?
Suhasini Haider: [Inaudible]
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: But then ASEAN has not been called either.
Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): To the best of my knowledge this issue is not related.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Look this is a G20 question. Thank you very much Sir. Thank you also to Geetika Srivastava. Thank you all for joining.