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International Relations

India and China should work together for Asia's future: Modi

Belt and Road needs to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, leader hints

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 1. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)   © Not selection

SINGAPORE -- Cooperation by India and China will benefit Asia and the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Friday as the two most populous nations mended fences amid a changing global order.

"I firmly believe that Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other's interests," Modi said at the Asia Security Summit, a defense conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The speech followed an April visit to China where he and President Xi Jinping agreed to strengthen relations. Modi said in Friday's speech that "our cooperation is expanding" and that the April meeting with Xi "helped us cement our understanding that strong and stable relations between our two nations are an important factor for global peace and progress."

He was the first Indian prime minister invited to deliver the keynote address at the annual dialogue. India is now committed to deepening its relationships with Asian countries within the framework of the Modi government's Act East policy. His speech therefore touched on partnerships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, Russia and others.

While stressing ties to China, Modi also touched on "connectivity initiatives" in the Indo-Pacific region. "There are many connectivity initiatives in the region. If these have to succeed, we must not only build infrastructure, we must also build" bridges of trust, said Modi, apparently pointing to China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

"And for that, these initiatives must be based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, consultation, good governance, transparency, viability and sustainability," he added.

The prime minister also warned of rising protectionism. Stressing that Asia has benefited from globalization, he said that "we will also support rule-based, open, balanced and stable trade environment in the Indo-Pacific region," lifting up all nations "on the tide of trade and investment."

Modi reiterated the importance of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade framework under negotiation by 16 countries including India, China and Japan.

Some have seen this grouping as a rival to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade and investment pact that does not include China or India. The U.S. backed the TPP under then-President Barack Obama but pulled out under President Donald Trump.

The three-day event began on Friday. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is slated to deliver a speech on Saturday morning on American leadership and the challenges of Indo-Pacific security. Denuclearization in North Korea will be a key agenda item at the dialogue.

The U.S. military announced this week a name change for its Pacific Command, to the Indo-Pacific Command, in what was seen as an acknowledgement of India's growing role in regional security.

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