The Telegraph
Monday, December 18, 2017

Modi's music to Trump ears

First published on 15-Nov-2017
Modi speaks at the Asean summit in Manila on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday checked many of the boxes that are among the current pet subjects of US President Donald Trump.

Modi called for the "irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" and laid stress on the need for a "rules-based regional security architecture" as well as "free navigation" in the Indo-Pacific region.

In a series of meetings in Manila - during his engagements at an Asean meeting and several bilaterals including with the two other countries in the resurrected idea of a US-India-Japan-Australia quadrilateral - Modi flagged these formulations that are currently dear to Washington. He had met Trump on Monday.

Addressing the 15th Asean-India Summit, the Prime Minister assured the grouping of New Delhi's steady support towards achieving a "rules-based" regional security architecture that best attests to the region's interests and its peaceful development.

Later, briefing journalists, Preeti Saran, the secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, said that at the East Asia Summit, Modi laid stress on the importance of safe, secure and free navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. He also called for adherence to rule of law and international obligations, including respect for UNCLOS (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

This is a rather unambiguous support for the US position on the South China Sea as "free navigation" is essentially diplomatese for Beijing's policy in the contested waters. The the call to respect UNCLOS is seen as a reference to China refusing to abide by an international tribunal's decision to favour Manila over Beijing in the claims on the sea

Although the idea of the Indo-Pacific is not new, Trump has shown a preference for it as opposed to the earlier Asia-Pacific terminology, making India central to the new formulation.

Modi also shared the concern in the region about North Korea's pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons.

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