As New Delhi seeks to expand its naval presence in the Indian Ocean region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday held separate bilateral meetings with the top leadership of Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar, the three strategically-located maritime neighbours of India.
The prime minister held the meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. It is learnt that the issue of maritime security cooperation figured in all the three meetings.
In the deliberations between Modi and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha, the two sides agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the defence industries sector and resolved to boost trade ties, the External Affairs Ministry said.
“India and Thailand are close maritime neighbours having historical and cultural linkages. In the contemporary context, India’s ‘Act East’ policy is complemented by Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy which has made the relationship deep, robust and multifaceted,” the MEA said.
In their talks, Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reiterated their commitment to work together for peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, besides resolving to work closely to deal with threats of terrorism and extremism, it said.
Modi congratulated Widodo on the start of his second term as the president of Indonesia and conveyed that as the world’s two largest democratic and plural societies, India is committed to working with Indonesia to strengthen ties in the areas of defence, security, connectivity, trade and investment, the MEA said.
The prime minister held a “constructive” meeting with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during which they explored ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of connectivity and capacity building, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Significantly, India has been gradually ramping up its naval cooperation with all the three countries in the face of China’s growing military posturing in the Indian Ocean region.
“When Act East & Neighborhood First converge. PM @narendramodi had a constructive meeting with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to enhance cooperation in capacity building, connectivity and people-to-people ties, among other areas,’ Kumar tweeted.
It is not immediately known whether the issue of Rohingya Muslims figured in the meeting.
An estimated 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State since 2017 after large-scale violence following a military crackdown. The exodus of refugees in large numbers has resulted in a major crisis in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Myanmar is also one of India’s strategic neighbours and the two countries share a 1,640-km-long land border.
Modi arrived here on a three-day visit on Saturday to attend ASEAN-India, the East Asia and the RCEP summits.