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India, Philippines reaffirm strong commitment to multifaceted partnership


External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with Defence Minister of Philippines Delfin Lorenzana, during his visit to Philippines. A PTI Photo

MANILA (PTI):  India and the Philippines have reaffirmed their strong commitment to a multifaceted partnership that would facilitate the developmental aspirations and shared priorities of the two democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday concluded his first visit to the key Southeast Asian country.

Jaishankar's three-day visit to the Philippines comes over two weeks after the key Southeast Asian country signed a USD 375 million deal with India to buy three batteries of the BrahMos cruise missile.

During the visit, the minister held a bilateral meeting with his counterpart Teodoro L Locsin Jr and the two ministers reviewed developments in bilateral relations since the meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation that they co-chaired in virtual format in November 2020.

"Both ministers agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral fora and reaffirmed their strong commitment to a multifaceted partnership that would facilitate the developmental aspirations and shared priorities of the two democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, the External Affairs Ministry said in a press release.

They discussed the future trajectory of the wide-ranging engagement between the two countries and also had an in-depth exchange of views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.

The ministers welcomed recent trends in bilateral ties that have contributed to deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation and the expansion to newer areas based on shared interests in line with the vision of the leadership of both countries, the release said.

They agreed to further work towards strengthening engagement in counter-terrorism and defence and maritime security, covering defence capabilities as well as military training and capacity building, it added.

The two sides agreed to make efforts to further expand economic cooperation as well as trade and investment links in a range of areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, health and pharmaceuticals, tourism, ICT, and science & technology. They expressed satisfaction in recent initiatives to step up cooperation in emerging areas such as fintech, blue economy, renewable energy, space, cyber security and traditional medicine.

To expand business, tourism and student exchange between the two countries, both sides agreed on the need for a simplified visa regime between India and the Philippines.

Jaishankar also pressed for early return of Indian medical students to the Philippines.

He met defence minister Delfin Lorenzana, finance minister Carlos Domineguez III, and Agriculture minister William Dar and discussed issues strengthening cooperation in Defence, Finance and Agriculture sectors respectively.

He also interacted with the Indian diaspora in Manila and appreciated their role in promoting friendship and amity between the people of two countries.

On his part, Locsin said he had "productive and insightful discussions" with Jaishankar.

"At the heart of our relationship are the historical, cultural, and personal ties between our peoples, he said.

"India has been our partner in promoting peace and security in the region, as well as in advocating the rule of law in the face of armed ambition and the anarchy that follows it," he said.

As maritime countries, the Philippines and India, both at the crossroads of the busiest sea lanes in the world, know the critical role of the rule of law in maintaining stability on the water that most unstable element yet so vital to the life and thriving of nations, the minister added.

"We have so much more to do in maritime cooperation; as much bilaterally as regionally in the context of ASEAN; more broadly still throughout the Indo-Pacific, he said.

He also invoked Mahatma Gandhi, saying India's father of nation is as much a hero here as among his mighty people. We honoured him by repeating his achievements in reverse: in 1986 by a funeral that American pundits flung in the assassins' faces by calling the two-million strong funeral of Ninoy Aquino 'the greatest since Gandhi's'.

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