Asean Summit: India, US can take ties beyond bilateral parameters, says Modi

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US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral meeting alongside the Asean Summit in Manila on Monday. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said India and the US can take their mutual cooperation beyond bilateral parameters, and work jointly for the future of Asia, reflecting a growing convergence of views on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi’s remarks came as he sat down for talks with US President Donald Trump in Manila on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in the Philippines.

According to foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, the meeting lasted 45 minutes and covered bilateral, regional and international issues. The talks were “cordial, constructive and very comfortable,” Jaishankar said.

This is the second meeting between Modi and Trump in four months. It also comes after the Trump administration outlined two key policy statements delineating a prominent role for India in stabilising war-torn Afghanistan as well as for maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

In his comments, Modi also said that India would try to “live up to the expectations” of the US and the world and thanked Trump for speaking “highly” about India during his current five-nation Asia trip.

“The cooperation between India and the US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world…We are moving ahead together on many issues,” Modi said in his comments seated next to Trump.

“He (Trump) expressed optimism about India and I am assuring that the expectation the world has, the expectation the US has, India has been trying to live up to that expectation and will continue to do it,” said Modi.

The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from the US Pacific coast, across Australia to Africa. Trump and members of his administration have been increasingly using the term “Indo-Pacific” as opposed to “Asia-Pacific” in recent times—a move that has been making China increasingly wary.

Trump on his part described Modi as a friend. “It’s great to have Prime Minister Modi here. We’ve had him at the White House, and he’s become a friend of ours and a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India—bringing them all together,” the US president said, according to the transcript released by the White House. “It’s a lot of good reports coming out of India. So I want to congratulate you,” he told Modi.

The Modi-Trump meeting comes a day after India, the US, Japan and Australia resolved to keep the strategically important Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive.

China on Monday questioned its exclusion from the quadrilateral group and expressed hope that the new concept of ‘Indo-Pacific’ is not directed against it. “The relevant proposals should be open and inclusive and should be conducive to win-win cooperation and avoid politicising or excluding the relevant parties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing, said PTI.

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