External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will be on a two-day visit to Bangkok to attend ministerial meetings of the ASEAN and East Asia Summit, against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the South China Sea and the US-China trade war.
Jaishankar’s meetings will be preparatory for the ASEAN-India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this year.
Jaishankar will also attend the 26th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and 10th Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok.
The meetings come amidst China’s aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, leading to rising tensions with Vietnam.
Among the ministers of the ASEAN dialogue partners to attend the Bangkok meeting would be Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
New UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab would also be attending.
Jaishankar is likely to hold several bilateral meetings with his counterparts from other countries, including Raab.
The ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, co-chaired by Jaishankar and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai, on Thursday will review progress in the implementation of key decisions of the Leaders of ASEAN Member States and India, arrived at during the 25th Anniversary ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held in New Delhi on January 25 last year and the Informal ASEAN-India Breakfast Summit held in Singapore on November 15, 2018.
It would also review progress in implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2016-2020). The members would also exchange views on important regional and international issues and on ways and means of further strengthening the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.
Jaishankar will co-chair the 10th Mekong Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn on Thursday.
Vietnam has been upset over a Chinese ship escorted by a flotilla of heavily armed coastguard vessels entering a Vietnamese-controlled reef earlier this month. Patrol ships of both nations have been in a state of confrontation over a dispute at Vanguard Bank – a reef controlled by Hanoi. Vietnam has briefed India about the incident, even as the state of confrontation showing no signs of abating.
The Mekong Ganga Meeting will review practical cooperation under the MGC framework, adopt the MGC Plan of Action (2019-2022) and also discuss the various commemorative activities planned next year to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the MGC, which is the oldest sub-regional cooperation framework set up by the Mekong countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with any external partner, said a MEA statement.
The 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting to be held on Friday will discuss preparations for the Summit, scheduled to be held in Bangkok on November 4.
In this context, the Ministers will discuss implementation of the Manila Plan of Action (2018-2022) to implement the Phnom Penh Declaration on the EAS Development Initiative, adopted by the EAS Leaders in 2012. The Ministers will also deliberate on the current regional and international issues and on strengthening of the Summit as the region’s prominent Leaders-led forum for discussion on global political-security and economic issues.
The 26th ASEAN Regional forum on Friday will focus on joint programmes and activities by the Member States and Organisations to foster the habit of cooperation and build strategic trust in the region.
Under the ARF rubric, India and Myanmar organised a Field Training Exercise on Military Medicine in Lucknow in March 2019 for the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) countries.
On both the meetings on Friday, Jaishankar will enumerate India’s Indo-Pacific vision, which was elaborated by Prime Minister Modi in his address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June 2018.