New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Thailand’s capital city Bangkok on Saturday for a summit-level engagement with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the areas of trade, investment, maritime security, defence, terrorism, non-proliferation and migration, stated news agency PTI. He is currently on a three-day visit to Bangkok starting from Saturday.

It must be noted that this summit is taking place in the backdrop of China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific region. A senior Indian official was quoted by news agency PTI as saying, “Shoring up India’s trade and security ties with ASEAN will be a top priority for India during the India-ASEAN summit.” Some of the dialogue partners of the annual ASEAN summit are India, US, Japan, Russia and China. The summit comprises 10 member countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

PM Modi will also negotiate on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal ahead of the ASEAN summit to resolve some of ‘critical issues’, stated a report. The goal of the RCEP deal is to create one of the biggest free-trade regions in the world.

Besides, the Prime Minister will also attend an annual East Asia summit where he is likely to discuss the various ways to deal with the terror threat, radicalisation and evolving security scenario in the region. Apart from the 10 ASEAN Member states, some of the countries that will attend the East Asia Summit are India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia. Besides the 10-member ASEAN bloc, the other countries that will be a part of RCEP free trade pact are India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The ASEAN region along with India together comprises a combined population of 1.85 billion people, which is one-fourth of the global population and their combined GDP has been estimated at over USD 3.8 trillion. Investment from ASEAN to India has been over USD 70 billion in the last 17 years accounting for more than 17 per cent of India’s total FDI.

India’s investment in the ASEAN during the same period has been more than USD 40 billion.

The RCEP negotiations were launched by ASEAN leaders and the six other countries during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh in Cambodia in November 2012.

The objective of launching the RCEP negotiations is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN member states and its FTA partners.

“There are some critical issues still outstanding and efforts are being made to resolve them to provide a fair and a transparent trading environment. These issues are extremely important for our economy and livelihood of our people,” Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs on the RCEP negotiations.

“It is, therefore, imperative that these issues are resolved satisfactorily. India remains engaged to find resolutions of these issues,” she said on Thursday. After arriving on Saturday evening, PM Modi will address a gathering of the Indian community at an indoor stadium in Bangkok.

(With inputs from PTI)