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India believes that a strong and unified Asean can play a constructive role in the emerging regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific, External Affair Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday while underlining that a “multipolar Asia” and a “multipolar world” are increasingly self-evident today.

In his virtual address at the 1st Asean Future Forum, he also said “we believe that Quad compliments the Asean and the Asean-led mechanisms” in their effort to make the region prosperous through delivery of people-centric benefits.

Jaishankar asserted that Asean is “at the heart of our Act East Policy” and is a “crucial pillar in India’s wider Indo-Pacific vision”.

“We support Asean unity, centrality and the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Jaishankar said India and Asean are neighbours sharing “millennia-old cultural and civilisational linkages”.

The Asean-India relationship which has entered its fourth decade and has matured into a “comprehensive strategic partnership” is based on shared values and common aspirations, he added.

Jaishankar said India believes that a “strong and unified Asean can play a constructive role in the emerging regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific”.

Earlier in his address, he congratulated Vietnam, especially Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, for successfully holding the first ‘AS Asean Future Forum’.

“Today, a multipolar Asia and a multipolar world are increasingly self-evident. This brings to the fore an ever important role of Asean and of India to deal with the realities of the emerging world order. It underlines the need for greater cooperation and coordination between India and the Asean,” Jaishankar said.

The 10-member Asean includes — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

“Synergy between India’s Indo-Pacific Oc Aseans Initiative (IPOI) and the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) that is reflected in our Asean-India Leaders Joint Statement provides a strong framework for cooperation, including in addressing challenges to comprehensive security,” Jaishankar said.

India was among the first to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia indicating our collective resolve towards maintaining peace, prosperity and stability in the region, he said.

“We have held the First Asean-India Maritime Exercise in 2023 and aim to hold the second edition at a mutually convenient date. Our recent operations in the Red Sea area have rendered protection and support and evacuation of crew, including of Asean Member States,” Jaishankar said.

“As net security provider and first responder, India’s initiative of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) is aimed at contributing towards peace and stability in the region,” he added.

The external affairs minister underlined it is vital that freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce are respected and facilitated.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Laws of the Seas provide a comprehensive legal framework and serve as the Constitution of the Seas within which all activities in the oc Aseans and seas must be carried out, Jaishankar said.

“Upholding the UNCLOS is our common and collective endeavour, besides efforts towards mitigation, adaptation and response capacities to deal with the impact of climate change and disasters, and global challenges such as transnational crimes, terrorism, cyber attacks, human trafficking and health and food security,” he added.

The external affairs minister said the digital era and increasing use of artificial intelligence have resulted in “a premium on trust and transparency issues affecting our concept of security”.

There is growing recognition globally that over-concentration of manufacturing and technology is creating both supply-side risks as well as the possibility of leveraging with vested interests by some in the wake of natural calamities, he said.

“We all had experienced it during the COVID-19 pandemic and all of us learned a powerful lesson. We must strive towards diverse, secure, transparent and resilient supply chains,” Jaishankar added.

India and the Asean Member States are also working together under various sub-regional mechanisms, namely the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle and the BIMSTEC, he said.

“I would also like to mention here that Quad leaders have been consistent in extending their unwavering support for Asean Centrality and Unity. We believe that Quad compliments the Asean and the Asean-led mechanisms in their effort to make the region prosperous through delivery of people-centric benefits such as Quad Infrastructure and STEM Scholarships,” Jaishankar said.

“We believe that the time has come for the Global South to present its perspective and assume a greater role in international affairs. As G20 President last year, we held virtual Voice of Global South Summits with participation of several Asean Member States,” he added.