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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will pay a five-day visit to Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia beginning March 23 with an aim to boost bilateral ties and discuss regional issues of “mutual concern”.

Jaishankar’s first destination is expected to be Singapore. “External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, at the invitation of his counterparts, will be on an official visit to Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia from March 23 to 27,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a brief statement on Saturday.

“The visit will focus on enhancing bilateral relations with the three countries, and would provide an opportunity for engagement on regional issues of mutual concern,” it said.

The overall situation in the strategic waters, including the South China Sea and Red Sea, are likely to figure in Jaishankar’s talks with his counterparts in the three countries.

There have been growing global concerns over China’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons.

Several countries in the region including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.

India and many other democratic countries have been pressing for peaceful settlement of the disputes and for adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).

The defence and strategic ties between India and the Philippines have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In January 2022, India sealed a USD 375 million deal with the Philippines for supplying three batteries of the missile.

The supplies of the missiles to the Southeast Asian country are set to begin soon.

Jaishankar and his counterparts in the three countries may also exchange views on the current situation arising out of the Houthi militants targeting various cargo vessels in the Red Sea and other strategic waterways in the region.