India on Monday signed four agreements, including one to step up cooperation in the defence sector, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila to boost bilateral ties.
The prime minister had a very warm and cordial meeting with president Duterte, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Preeti Saran said.
Ms Saran said four agreements, including on defence cooperation and logistics, agriculture, and on micro, small and medium enterprises, were signed between the two sides.
Duterte expressed interest in acquiring fast offshore patrol vessels and welcomed Indian pharmaceutical companies to invest in his country to make good quality and cheaper drugs. He also said Indian infrastructure companies could explore opportunities in the Philippines.
Modi, on his part, expressed interest in expanding cooperation with the Philippines in the renewable energy sector and welcomed the country to join the Solar Alliance. He also invited Duterte to visit India to take part in the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations which will be celebrated next year.
This is the first prime ministerial visit from India to Manila in 36 years after the visit of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981.
One of Modi’s foreign policy priorities has been better relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours, with his assertion of turning the erstwhile “Look East” policy into an “Act East.”
As Modi said in his speech at the ASEAN Summit, India and the Philippines have a lot in common; they are both pluralistic societies and a strong democratic polity. The two nations have witnessed strong service sector growth and have flourishing economies as well. Hence, trade and commerce come to the forefront of avenues that can be explored by the nations.
Trade between India and the Philippines currently stands at $1.981 billion in 2016-17. India’s exports to the Philippines amount to $1487 million and imports worth $494 million. The fact that India formally signed the Trade in Services & Trade in Investments Agreement with ASEAN in 2014 is anticipated to further boost these figures.
According to the Bureau of Immigration, the Indian community in the Philippines is estimated to be about 1,20,000. The Philippines is also beginning to emerge as a destination for Indian students.