India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar says New Delhi "fully supports a strong, unified, prosperous ASEAN" as he holds a meeting with foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries.
A special meeting between India and Southeast Asian foreign ministers has opened with co-chairs India and Singapore calling for strengthening ties.
Thursday's meeting comes amid Russia’s attack against Ukraine and a heightened rivalry between the United States and China that threatens peace and stability in the region.
India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations face geopolitical headwinds from the conflict in Ukraine and its impact on food and energy security.
"India fully supports a strong, unified, prosperous ASEAN whose centrality in the Indo-Pacific is fully recognised," Jaishankar said.
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Russia’s actions have "upended the international system of rules and norms.”
Balakrishnan added that the rivalry between the US and China has direct implications for all of Asia.
"These developments, if unchecked, can threaten the sole system of peace and stability which we have depended on for the basis of our growth and development and prosperity over many decades,” he said.
READ MORE: The Russia-Ukraine crisis is a bitter pill for ASEAN
Land and sea connectivity
The two-day meeting marks the 30th anniversary of India’s dialogue relations with the 10-member regional bloc that includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Jaishankar emphasised the need for strengthening land and sea connectivity with ASEAN member states.
The upgrade of the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is part of the ASEAN-India Connectivity initiative.
Trade between India and the ASEAN region amounted to over $78 billion in 2021.
India mainly exports organic chemicals, minerals, ships and boats, iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, cotton and tobacco to ASEAN countries, according to India’s Commerce Ministry.
Top products imported by India from ASEAN include coal, palm oil, telephones, light vessels and electronic circuits.
READ MORE: New ASEAN deal to place China as economic partner in Southeast Asia