Philippines and India Strengthen Cooperation in Maritime Safety and International Law

As two seafaring nations of the Indo-Pacific and two of the biggest contributors of manpower in the global shipping industry, Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo and Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar discussed shared interests in ensuring maritime safety and agreed to explore cooperation in ensuring the security of Indian and Filipino seafarers such as those working on board merchant vessels plying the Red Sea. Photo from Department of Foreign Affairs
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India’s growing interest in the Indo-Pacific region has prompted a closer examination of its relationships with countries in the area. One such country is the Philippines, which has been a key player in the region’s security dynamics. The recent joint statement between the Philippines and India signifies a strengthening of their bilateral relations, particularly in the areas of safety at sea and adherence to international law.
The Philippines, an archipelago nation situated in Southeast Asia, has long been a strategic partner for India. Both countries share common concerns about maritime security and the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific. With the increasing assertiveness of certain regional powers and the growing significance of the region in global affairs, the Philippines and India recognize the need to work together to ensure stability and peace in the area.
The joint statement emphasizes the importance of upholding international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both countries have reiterated their commitment to resolving disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with international legal frameworks. This commitment is crucial in the face of ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where the Philippines has been at odds with China over competing territorial claims.
India’s interest in the Indo-Pacific region stems from its desire to safeguard its own maritime interests and maintain a balance of power in the region. As a rising global power, India seeks to play a more significant role in shaping the regional security architecture. By forging closer ties with countries like the Philippines, India aims to enhance its influence and contribute to the maintenance of a rules-based international order.
In addition to security cooperation, the Philippines and India are also exploring avenues for economic collaboration. Both countries have vibrant economies and a young demographic dividend, making them attractive investment destinations. There is immense potential for trade and investment between the two nations, particularly in sectors such as information technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.
Furthermore, cultural and people-to-people exchanges are also being encouraged to deepen the understanding and friendship between the Philippines and India. Both nations have a rich cultural heritage and a shared history of trade and cultural interactions. Strengthening these ties can foster greater mutual understanding and cooperation in various fields, including education, tourism, and cultural exchanges.
In conclusion, the joint statement between the Philippines and India marks an important milestone in their bilateral relations. The commitment to safety at sea and adherence to international law reflects their shared concerns and aspirations for a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. As they continue to deepen their cooperation in various areas, the Philippines and India are poised to contribute significantly to regional peace, security, and economic development.

Support for ASEAN’s Centrality and Unity

During a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar emphasized his country’s strong support for the centrality, cohesion, and unity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Jaishankar also highlighted the importance of a rules-based order for the progress and prosperity of the region.

Jaishankar stressed the significance of all parties adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in its entirety, both in letter and in spirit. He reiterated India’s firm support for the Philippines in upholding its national sovereignty, emphasizing the need for closer cooperation between the two countries to shape the emerging global order.

Furthermore, Jaishankar expressed India’s commitment to actively contribute to the ASEAN’s efforts in enhancing regional connectivity and economic integration. He highlighted the potential for greater trade and investment cooperation between India and ASEAN member states, noting the complementarity of their economies and the opportunities for mutual growth and development.

In this regard, Jaishankar mentioned India’s ongoing participation in initiatives such as the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA) and the ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit. He emphasized the importance of strengthening connectivity infrastructure, including physical, digital, and people-to-people linkages, to foster greater economic cooperation and cultural exchange.

Moreover, Jaishankar acknowledged the crucial role of ASEAN in maintaining peace, stability, and security in the region. He commended the organization’s efforts in promoting dialogue, negotiation, and peaceful resolution of disputes through mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Jaishankar also expressed India’s support for ASEAN’s engagement with external partners, including dialogue partners and ASEAN Plus Three (APT) countries, to enhance regional cooperation on various issues of common interest, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, and climate change.

In conclusion, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reaffirmed India’s unwavering support for ASEAN’s centrality, unity, and cohesion. He emphasized the importance of a rules-based order, adherence to UNCLOS, and closer cooperation between India and the Philippines. Additionally, Jaishankar highlighted India’s commitment to enhancing connectivity, trade, and investment with ASEAN, as well as supporting ASEAN’s role in maintaining regional peace and security.

Secretary Manalo further emphasized the importance of advocating for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and upholding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He highlighted that the 2016 arbitral award, which invalidated China’s expansive claim in the region, serves as a significant milestone in promoting a rules-based order in the disputed waters.
During his visit to New Delhi in June of the previous year, Secretary Manalo engaged in fruitful discussions with Indian officials, where they reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the UNCLOS and the arbitral award. Both the Philippines and India share a common stance on the need to uphold international law and safeguard the rights and interests of all nations.
In their recent discussions, Secretary Manalo and his Indian counterparts expressed deep concern over China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea. They highlighted the importance of addressing these issues through peaceful means and in accordance with international law. Both countries stressed the need for all parties involved to exercise restraint and refrain from any activities that could escalate tensions in the region.
Furthermore, Secretary Manalo emphasized the role of India as a strategic partner in promoting freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. He commended India’s active engagement in maritime security initiatives and its support for the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight.
In conclusion, the Philippines and India stand united in their advocacy for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. They firmly uphold the UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral award, which serve as important pillars in maintaining peace, stability, and the rule of law in the region. Through their shared commitment to upholding international law, the Philippines and India continue to work together to promote a rules-based order and safeguard the rights and interests of all nations in the South China Sea. India and the Philippines have long recognized the immense potential for collaboration in various sectors. The discussion between Secretary Manalo and Minister Jaishankar highlighted the importance of advancing trade, tourism, and cooperation between the two nations. With India currently ranking as the Philippines’ 15th foremost trading partner and 13th among its export markets, there is a solid foundation for further economic cooperation.
Trade between India and the Philippines has been steadily growing, with the total bilateral trade exceeding $3 billion in 2023. This figure not only showcases the existing economic ties between the two countries but also indicates the potential for further growth and development. Both nations are keen on exploring opportunities to enhance their trade relations, tapping into new markets, and diversifying their export-import portfolio.
In addition to trade, tourism is another area where India and the Philippines can foster closer ties. Both countries boast rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant tourism industries. By promoting tourism exchanges and collaboration, they can attract more visitors from around the world, boost their respective economies, and strengthen people-to-people connections.
Furthermore, the discussion between Secretary Manalo and Minister Jaishankar highlighted the potential for collaboration in sectors such as food security, healthcare, and financial technology. As countries face common challenges in ensuring food security and providing quality healthcare, sharing best practices, and collaborating on research and development can lead to mutual benefits. Additionally, the growing importance of financial technology presents opportunities for both nations to leverage their expertise and innovation in this field.
This strengthened partnership between the Philippines and India not only signifies their shared commitment to international law and maritime security but also opens doors for increased collaboration in various sectors. Both countries recognize the importance of working together to shape a more prosperous and secure future for the region. By deepening their cooperation in trade, tourism, food security, healthcare, and financial technology, India and the Philippines can unlock new avenues for mutual growth and development.

Source: The Manila Times

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