SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on Friday the importance of guaranteeing freedom of navigation in Asian waters for free trade, days after committing to help develop a strategic port in Indonesia.
Modi visits this week three countries of the Southeast Asia as part of an "Act" Eastern policy "to strengthen relations in the region amid concern about the growing maritime influence of China, particularly in the disputed South China Sea.
" We reiterate our main position, with regard to maritime safety, our commitment to an order based on the rules, "Modi said through an interpreter after talks with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"We also agreed to have an open, fair and transparent maritime trade commitment in this area," Modi said.
On Wednesday, Modi met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and pledged to develop infrastructure and economic zone in Sabang, in the North end of the island of Sumatra, at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, one of the busiest sea routes in the world.
Modi paused briefly in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to meet Malaysian Prime Minister-elect Mahathir Mohamad before arriving in Singapore, where he will deliver the keynote speech at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue security forum.
Modi's conversations in Singapore included an agreement for greater engagement among his navies, including the exercises.
"Both prime ministers also agreed to India's proposal for continuous and institutionalized naval engagements in their shared maritime space, including the establishment of maritime exercises with like-minded regional partners," the Singapore Ministry of Defense said in a statement. release.
Modi this year invited the leaders of the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi, the largest gathering of foreign leaders at the event.
There has been growing concern about China's activity in the South China Sea, which is affirmed almost in its entirety, and which Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim in part.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would reject what it considers the militarization of the islands in the South China Sea despite China's condemnation of a trip through the region over the weekend by two ships. of the United States Navy.
Written by Jack Kim; Edition by Robert Birsel