Singapore, June 1: Speaking at the Shangri-La dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew heavily from geography, reminding the audience how the East has always held special significance for India. He said, “For thousands of years, Indians have turned to the east not just to see the sun rise but also to pray for its light to spread over the world.” Likewise, he said, Singapore has India’s springboard to the ASEAN region, and “for centuries, has been India’s gateway to the broader East”. He said ASEAN unity was essential and it could integrate the region. (Also read: India, Singapore to Upgrade Trade Agreement)

Modi said, “The Indian Ocean has shaped much of India’s history. It now holds the key to our future as the ocean carries 90% of India’s trade as also our energy sources. It is the lifeline of global commerce.” He said India has growing economic, political and defence ties with each southeast country. Speaking about the relations India shares with China, Modi said the two countries were working on better cooperation. He said trade relations had also improved as the two neighbours had shown the maturity to tackle issues and work towards peace on the border. “India-China cooperation is expanding. Trade is growing. And, we have displayed maturity and wisdom in managing issues and ensuring a peaceful border. There is growing intersection in our international presence,” he said.

On how ASEAN could be of help to each of the member nations, Modi said that the world had shaped up such that all countries were dependant on each other and if they put their heart to it, they could make it possible to work together. “This is a world of inter-dependent fortunes & failures. No nation can shape and secure it on its own. It is a world that summons us to rise above divisions and competition to work together. Is that possible? Yes, it is possible. I see ASEAN as an example and inspiration,” he said. As to what India has to offer, the Prime Minister said, “India stands for a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it.”

Stressing on the need for accepting change and moving forward, Modi said, “Solutions cannot be found behind walls of protection, but in embracing change. What we seek is a level playing field for all. India stands for open and stable international trade regime.”