India and the ASEAN on Thursday agreed to work towards a comprehensive strategic partnership that is meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial by further enhancing their strategic ties. This was stated in a statement by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan at the India-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting being hosted by New Delhi to mark the 30th anniversary of its relations with the 10-nation grouping.
Jaishankar and Balakrishnan are the co-chairs of the two-day meeting that began on Thursday.
It is understood that the meeting discussed the situation in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region that has been witnessing increasing Chinese muscle-flexing.In their statement, the co-chairs said the meeting reaffirmed commitment to multilateralism founded on the principles of international laws including the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant UN treaties and conventions.
The foreign ministers agreed to work towards maintaining an open and inclusive regional cooperation framework, support ASEAN centrality in the evolving rules-based regional architecture and uphold multilateralism in jointly responding to regional and global challenges.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, and India and several other countries, including the US, China, Japan and Australia, are its dialogue.
Recognising the importance of the health sector, the meeting agreed to cooperate in vaccine production and distribution, research and innovation in generic medicines, cooperation on traditional medicines, strengthening public health infrastructure and enhancing capacities for preparedness and response to pandemic and public health emergencies.
In the sphere of trade, the two sides agreed to work towards realising the full potential including through enhanced utilisation and effective implementation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) by the early commencement of the review of the ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement to ensure that it is more user friendly and simple.