Duterte eyes deal on medicines in India trip
By Llanesca T Panti/Manila Times
President Rodrigo Duterte will push for a deal involving cheaper medicines and maritime co-operation with India when he visits the former British colony next week.
Assistant Secretary Hellen de la Vega of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who also serves as head of the Office of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), was referring to the Asean-India Commemorative Summit scheduled for January 24 to 26 — a gathering that will coincide with India’s Republic Day celebration.
The president will arrive in New Delhi on January 24, a day ahead of the summit. The Asean leaders will be welcomed by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind during a luncheon.
Asean groups the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.
“The particular schedule is yet to be determined, but certainly, the interest on pharmaceutical industry is on the agenda. The president will be discussing it at the leaders’ level. And when I say about cheaper medicines, that would also be talking about it in the context of having co-operation among Asean members,” de la Vega told reporters.
“For the summit proper, it will consist of two sessions. The retreat session will focus on maritime co-operation, while the plenary session is expected to discuss regional and international issues as well as the future course of Asean-India relations under the overall summit theme of Shared Values and Common Destiny,” de la Vega added.
Also scheduled for the 25th is the release of the Asean-India commemorative stamps portraying the cultural links between each Asean member country and India.
Capping the Asean-India summit is a cultural programme and banquet hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in honour of the Asean leaders on the evening of January 25, while a Republic Day celebration is set on Jan 26 wherein Asean leaders have been invited as chief guests, to witness the grand ceremony and spectacular parade.
Past Republic Day celebration guests include: Queen Elizabeth 2nd in 1961, South African President Nelson Mandela in 1995, Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014 and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in 2017.
“For 2018, India has decided to invite all 10 leaders of Asean which demonstrates India’s important attachment to Asean,” de la Vega added.
India participates in various Asean-led mechanisms, including the Asean Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, and Expanded Asean Maritime Forum. Likewise, India was also one of the first non-Asean signatories of the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia.
In 2017, India emerged as one of Asean’s top five partners in development assistance with funded projects and programmes amounting to $55.5mn.
In 2016, India also ranked as the seventh largest source of foreign direct investments with inflows from India to Asean recorded at nearly $1.5bn. The last Asean-India Commemorative Summit was last held in New Delhi in 2012 to commemorate the 20th year of Asean-India relations.