Indo-Pacific, China map and trade on agenda as PM leaves for Jakarta

Indo-Pacific, China map and trade on agenda as PM leaves for Jakarta

Modi heads to Indonesia to attend ASEAN India Summit and East Asia Summit for a quick trip before G-20

Future cooperation on the Indo-Pacific, trade issues, the situation in Myanmar and the recent controversy over China’s map are likely to be on the agenda as Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves on Wednesday for a two-day visit, during September 6-7, to Jakarta to attend the annual ASEAN-India Summit and the East Asia Summit hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The visit is seen as a diplomatic gesture to Indonesia, as PM Modi was originally reluctant to travel just before the G-20 Summit and the arrival of U.S. President Joseph Biden to Delhi, whom he is scheduled to meet on Friday, as well as other G-20 leaders and special invitees. However, after India conveyed its concerns, Indonesian officials rescheduled both summits to be convened back-to-back on Thursday morning, with only a short break in between. 

“The Indonesian side was kind enough so as to advance both summits to earlier in the day on September 7 so that PM Modi could return to India on the same day,” said MEA Secretary (East) Saurabh Kumar, who thanked Indonesia during a briefing on the Prime Minister’s visit. He added that Mr. Modi was not scheduled to hold any bilateral meeting during his visit to Jakarta due to shortage of time.

During the ASEAN-India summit, the first since the two sides upgraded their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2022, Mr. Kumar said that PM Modi would review progress on issues like strategic cooperation and military exercises as well as connectivity, including physical, digital and people-to-people ties. He said that while ASEAN-India trade ties would be reviewed, plans to revise the ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement would be taken up by the ministerial dialogue.

When asked if the recent controversy over China’s publication of a map that angered India and several other neighbours could also come up, Mr. Kumar was non-committal.

“It is difficult to anticipate what will be discussed when the leaders meet, but issues which are of mutual concern, regional and international, would all come up in their discussion. Whether there would be consensus, I cannot anticipate,” he said.

PM Modi will begin the day on Thursday with the ASEAN-India Summit with leaders of the ten South East Asian countries, of which Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have all issued statements conveying concern over China’s depiction of their territories in its “Standard Map 2023” issued last week, as India had. Next, PM Modi will attend the East Asian Summit with leaders of the ASEAN-10 and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He will leave Jakarta immediately after and return to Delhi the same day, ahead of the arrivals for G-20, many of whom will fly from Jakarta. 

While Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have regretted their attendance at the summit in Delhi on September 9-10, health concerns threw some uncertainty on Tuesday over some of the other leaders who have confirmed their participation. U.S. President Joe Biden is under watch for symptoms after his wife Jill Biden tested positive for COVID, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posted pictures of himself wearing an eye patch after he sustained injuries while jogging. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is undergoing treatment for his hip and is expected to undergo a surgery at the end of the month. However, officials said that their travel to India for the G-20 Summit remains as scheduled. 

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