India, Philippines Sign 4 Agreements During President Kovind’s Visit
An attendee waves a Filipino flag during a campaign rally for Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City and presidential candidate, not pictured, in Manila, the Philippines. (Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg)

India, Philippines Sign 4 Agreements During President Kovind’s Visit

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India and the Philippines agreed to bolster defence and maritime security partnership and to make it a key pillar of bilateral cooperation, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the region.

The two countries also committed to work closely together to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms as President Ram Nath Kovind held wide-ranging talks with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte at his official residence, the Malacanan Palace.

"I had very productive discussions with President Duterte. These cover bilateral cooperation as well as regional and global issues of the day," Kovind said after the talks and signing of four agreements covering maritime domain, security, tourism, science and technology and culture.

Kovind arrived in the Philippines on Thursday as part of his five-day state visit to the country.

"My visit to the Philippines is taking place in this landmark year when we are celebrating 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries," Kovind said in a press statement along his Philippine counterpart Duterte.

Acknowledging that the relations between the two countries have grown from strength to strength, Kovind said, "We have strong cooperation in political, defence and security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment as well as in agriculture, science & technology and health fields."

The president noted that the two countries have been the victims of terrorism with India being the target of cross-border terrorism for decades, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

"We committed to work closely together to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," he said.

As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are "natural partners" in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives, he said.

One of the agreements inked on Friday was on the sharing of white shipping information between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy. White shipping information refers to exchange of advance information on the movement and identity of commercial non-military merchant vessels.

The meeting between Kovind and Duterte took place after a Chinese fishing trawler hit and sank a Filipino boat in June in the contested waters of the South China Sea.

China claims most of the contested sea, including waters close to the Philippine shores, and has dismissed a UN-backed international tribunal ruling that said its assertion to the Sea is without legal basis. Parts of the South China Sea are also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

During Kovind's talks with Duterte, who was involved in a minor bike accident on Thursday, the two countries decided to explore their common future through cooperation in space, as well as the past through research of the history of their civilisational roots and commonalities in culture and tradition.

"We look forward to receive experts from the Philippines to India to research and document our ancient links. Therefore, my visit to this beautiful country is quite aptly captioned as 'Philippines and India at 70: Ushering Infinite Possibilities'," Kovind said.

President Kovind also highlighted the immense potential to further deepen the Philippines-India economic ties. The Philippines is emerging as an important focus country for India's corporate sector, he said.

The president said that India is also keen to participate in infrastructure development as well as in defence modernisation of the Philippines. "In both these areas, Indian companies have made their mark and attained global reputation," he said.

"We also invite companies from the Philippines to invest in India's transformative growth and development," he said. Kovind also stressed on the people-to-people relations that form the bedrock of sound bilateral relations.

"India is one of the fastest growing source countries for tourists to the Philippines. Both sides are exploring to start direct flights, which will give boost to connectivity. With our highly liberal visa regime, we look forward to more Filipino tourists visiting India," he said.

The president said he is happy to have the opportunity to unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi on the land of Jose Rizal on Gandhi's 150th anniversary.

"The future presents us with new opportunities to bring our two nations closer. I believe that the time has come for the Philippines-India relationship to reach an altogether new level of engagement," he said.

Kovind also condoled the loss of life caused by the earthquake in Mindanao on Wednesday and wished speedy recovery to those affected.

Also read: Philippines Sees Around 6% Growth in 2019 on Fiscal Stimulus

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