India and the Philippines on Friday resolved to strengthen defense engagement and maritime cooperation, especially in military training, as well as in the procurement of defense equipment. The resolve by the two nations to deepen defense and maritime ties comes in the backdrop of China’s growing expansionist behavior in eastern Ladakh, the South China Sea, and the Indo-Pacific region.
The fourth meeting of the India-Philippines joint commission on bilateral cooperation, co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Philippines counterpart Teodoro Locsin Jr. L, was held online on Friday. Both sides held comprehensive discussions on a wide range of matters of mutual importance and reviewed the recent developments in India-Philippines relations as well as discussed the future trajectory of their wide-ranging engagement, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.
The co-chairs reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation against shared challenges, particularly in the health sector to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it said. The ministers also agreed to further strengthen defense engagement and maritime cooperation between the two countries, especially in military training and education, capacity building, regular good-will visits, and procurement of defense equipment.
India and the Philippines also agreed to enhance cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism with information exchange between agencies concerned and support in terms of specialized training needs, the statement said. In light of vibrant economic prospects for both countries, the co-chairs agreed on expanding trade and investment links. Both sides also agreed to work towards strengthening cooperation in agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals, tourism, energy, ICT, and science and technology, the statement said.
Jaishankar appreciated the educational opportunities provided by the Philippines to Indian students and also reaffirmed India’s development and capacity building assistance to that country, according to the MEA. Jaishankar also invited Filipino students, scholars, and academicians to avail of the ITEC and e-ITEC initiatives, and make use of integrated Ph.D. fellowships offered to ASEAN students at IITs.
In line with the vision of the leaders of both the countries for a more expansive and mutually beneficial relationship between India and the Philippines, the ministers agreed to explore closer cooperation in emerging areas such as renewable energy, space, cybersecurity, and traditional medicine. To expand trade, investment, tourism, and student exchange between the two countries, both sides agreed to work towards a simplified visa regime between India and the Philippines, the MEA said. On regional and international issues, both sides agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral fora. Jaishankar and Secretary Locsin reaffirmed their commitment to a multifaceted partnership in line with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity, and growth for all in the region.