ASEC. DE LA VEGA: Thank you. Good morning, friends from the media. I’m Assistant Secretary Hellen de la Vega and I head the Office of ASEAN Affairs in the DFA. And I’m here to present an overview of our President’s visit to New Delhi for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit and India’s Republic Day celebration.
The ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit is the culminating activity for the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations, which we started to celebrate in January 2017 when the Philippines was chair of ASEAN.
Some of you may recall that President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged congratulatory messages on the anniversary in late January last year.
The theme for the summit as well as the 25th anniversary is “Shared Values, Common Destiny.”
The President and other ASEAN Member States have also been invited to India’s Republic Day celebration, which takes place the following day on 26th January.
Our briefing for today will consist of the following parts. We will begin with the general facts on India, followed by an overview of ASEAN-India relations. And also, we will end with a tentative program and the side events for the summit.
So my request is for everyone to reserve their questions at the end of the briefing. So let’s begin with an overview or profile of India.
A Federal Republic that has 28 states and seven union territories with New Delhi as the country’s capital. India celebrates its National Day every 26th of January with a spectacular Republic Day parade as the highlight.
And this year, the 10 leaders of ASEAN will be the guests of honor during the Republic Day celebration.
Like the Philippines, India’s government comprise the executive, legislative, and the judiciary. And President Ram Nath Kovind is the incumbent head of state, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the sitting head of government.
As of 2016, the population of India stood at 1.33 billion and India’s GDP totaled US$2.25 trillion. For comparison, the Philippines’ GDP in 2016 was US$304.9 billion.
Let me now go to the overview of ASEAN-India relations. India is an important dialogue partner of ASEAN. And under the ASEAN-India plan of action, trade and investment, connectivity, agriculture, tourism, culture, science and technology, and climate change are among the priority areas of cooperation.
ASEAN and India established dialogue relations in 1992 and India became a full dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1995.
The ASEAN-India Special Commemorative Summit is the culminating activity of the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India dialogue relations, which started in January 2017, as I said while the Philippines was ASEAN Chair.
You will recall that Prime Minister Modi visited the Philippines for the first time last November. And therefore, President Duterte is also visiting India for the first time next week.
India was one of the first non-ASEAN signatories of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and an important partner of ASEAN in promoting regional peace and stability.
Aside from being a dialogue partner of ASEAN, India participates in various ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ARF or the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum. And all of these, we had the privilege of hosting and organizing last year.
And India remained as one of ASEAN’s top trading partners in 2016, with total trade volume amounting to $58.45 billion.
Also in 2016, India ranked as the 7th largest source of foreign direct investments with inflows from India to ASEAN recorded at nearly US$1.5 billion.
In 2017, India was one of ASEAN’s top five partners in development assistance with funded projects and programs amounting to US$55.5 million.
For our Summit in New Delhi, we are looking on an outcome document and it’s called the Delhi Declaration, which will be released in conjunction with the Summit.
Let me now… allow me now to proceed with the tentative program and let me run through the broad strokes of the Summit program. The President is expected to arrive New Delhi on 24th January. And as I said earlier, the summit takes place the next day on 25th of January. And the ASEAN leaders will be welcomed by President Kovind during lunch.
Also scheduled for that day is the release of the ASEAN-India commemorative stamps. These 11 stamps, one for each ASEAN nation and India will portray the cultural links between each country and India.
For the summit proper, it will consist of two session. The retreat session which will focus on maritime cooperation, while the plenary session is expected to discuss regional and international issues as well as the future course of ASEAN-India relations under the overall summit theme of “Shared Values and Common Destiny.”
Capping the summit is a cultural program and banquet hosted by Prime Minister Modi in honor of the ASEAN leaders in the evening of the 25th.
The Republic Day on the 26th is a tradition that people of India are proud of. Actually India invites Chief Guests to witness the grand ceremony and spectacular parade staged for each Republic Day.
And in the past, previous Republic Days, India had the following guests like Queen Elizabeth II in 1961, I think many of you were not yet born.
And then President Nelson Mandela in 1995; President Vladimir Putin in 2007; and more recently, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014. And in 2017, the latest chief guest of India for its Republic Day was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
So for 2018, India has decided to invite all 10 leaders of ASEAN. So that demonstrates India’s — the importance that India attaches to ASEAN.
Now, there will also be pre-summit events being organized by India.
And on the screen, we have this projected, the India-ASEAN Weaving Textiles Relationship Conference on the 23rd of January; the ASEAN Business — ASEAN-India Business Council Meeting and Forum; and the India-ASEAN Youth Awards on 24 January.
So I’d like to end my presentation here and I would be happy to answer questions from the floor. Thank you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Peng Aliño (Radyo Pilipinas): Magsasalita po ba ang Presidente doon?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: Opo. We expect that both for the Plenary and the Retreat sessions.
Ms. Aliño: When po?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: Ano, on the — the Summit is on the 25th, yes.
Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, ma’am. During the visit of Prime Minister Modi last year, the President mentioned that he was interested in getting cheaper medicines from India. Will he have any meeting with any pharmaceutical company while he’s there?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: I am not sure about that particular schedule but certainly, the interest on pharmaceutical industry is in the agenda.
Ms. Salaverria: With whom will he be discussing this matter?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: At the leaders’ level. Yes.
Maricel Halili (TV 5): Hi ma’am, good morning. Ma’am, can we have more details about the bilateral meetings between President Duterte and Modi? What will be the agenda aside from cheaper medicine, if that will be discussed?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: When I mentioned about the cheaper medicine, I was also talking about it in the context of ASEAN, I mean, in terms of cooperation.
On the bilateral, particular bilateral meeting between them, we’re waiting for confirmation.
Ms. Halili: What will be the focus of the meeting, if ever, ma’am?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: I think it will have to evolve on the — you know, you remember that there have been some MOUs that were signed in November so it is really to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Ma’am, I just like to ask if there are other scheduled meetings si President Duterte with other leaders naman, like with other ASEAN leaders?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: At this stage, we have no info, at the moment, yeah.
Ms. Gutierrez: Pero there’s a possibility na merong mga side meetings?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: I have not obtained such information as of today.
Ms. Gutierrez: Also ma’am, could you give us an idea, ano po ‘yung lalamanin nung Delhi Declaration?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: ‘Yung Delhi Declaration, parang ‘yun ang roadmap for, you know, the cooperation between ASEAN and India.
You know when — for each of our dialogue partners, meron tayong tinatawag na Plan of Action.
So ito ay roadmap ‘no kung ano ‘yung mga areas.
So you expect that in the Delhi Declaration, areas like on how to substantiate political, economic and cultural cooperation. ‘Yan po ang ilalaman noong Delhi Declaration.
Ms. Aliño: Would there be a Filipino community gathering in the… in India?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: Meron tayong —
Ms. Aliño: How many Filipinos do we have there?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: I think that — meron tayong Filipino community, I think more than 3,000 Filipinos there.
Pero ‘yung particular engagement with the Filipino community, hindi pa rin ho kami confirmed about it.
We have our Bilateral Office here, who takes charge of all the bilateral matters.
Kung ang susunod na questions po ay related sa bilateral concerns, I can invite her to answer your questions.
Kasi ang… in my jurisdiction, I am on ASEAN. So maybe if there are ASEAN-related questions, I can answer them now and then later on, I can turn over the floor to our Bilateral Office to give you some more details on the bilateral relations.
May tanong pa po ba related to ASEAN?
Wala na? Marami pong salamat. May I now call on…
Rocky Ignacio (PTV 4): Ma’am, ‘yung pwede tumanong doon sa — matanong about bilateral issues? Is she or he here?
ASEC. DE LA VEGA: Andito po siya, sinama ko nga siya.
Ms. Ignacio: Yes, can we ask about ‘yung possible meeting of President Duterte with Fil Com since first time po niya kasing pupunta si India?
DIR. RODRIGUEZ: I’m Rhenita Rodriguez, a director at the Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On a possible bilateral meeting with — between the President and Prime Minister Modi, as Asec. De La Vega mentioned earlier, we are awaiting confirmation at this stage and so with the engagement with the Filipino community in New Delhi. Thank you very much.
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SOURCE: PCOO – PND (Presidential News Desk)