S Jaishankar to attend Asean-related meetings in Bangkok
External affairs minister S Jaishankar will travel to Bangkok during August 1-2 to attend a string of meetings with members of Asean against the backdrop of fresh tensions over China’s activities in the South China Sea and a push to conclude a regional trade pact.
India had earlier informed Asean that Jaishankar would be unable to attend the meetings because of commitments in Parliament but a last minute change paved the way for his presence at the crucial discussions, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.
Besides co-chairing the Asean-India ministerial meeting with Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai on August 1, Jaishankar will co-chair the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) ministerial meeting with Vietnam’s deputy prime minister Prak Sokhonn the same day.
On August 2, Jaishankar will participate in the East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministers’ meeting and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) meeting. He will also hold several bilateral meetings, including one with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
At the EAS and ARF meetings, Jaishankar will enumerate India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific as elaborated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018, the external affairs ministry said.
China’s activities in the South China Sea, especially in waters off Vietnam where India’s ONGC Videsh is engaged in energy exploration activities and efforts to complete negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade pact between the 10 Asean members and six other countries, are expected to figure in the meetings in Bangkok, the people cited above said.
The Asean-India ministerial meeting will review progress in implementing key decisions made at the 25th anniversary Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi in January 2018 and the Asean-India Plan of Action for 2016-20. The MGC meeting will review cooperation and adopt an action plan for 2019-22.
The EAS meeting will discuss preparations for the East Asia Summit to be held in Bangkok on November 4 while the ARF meet will focus on joint programmes and activities to foster cooperation and build strategic trust. Under the aegis of ARF, India and Myanmar held a field training exercise on military medicine in Lucknow in March.