India, Philippines set to upgrade ties, reinvigorate relations

Manila, Oct 22 (IANS) India and the Philippines have set aside years of limited contact and are going to work towards a full and comprehensive upgrade of their bilateral relations which will be manifest in the visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to this country in 2014.

In what was described as an "exceptional meeting" between Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Secretary of the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario here Monday, the two countries agreed to take their ties to a substantially higher level.

The two country have decided to upgrade their military relations and have the second meeting of the Philippines-India Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) in New Delhi as early as next month, a joint statement issued after the talks said.

The second meeting of the India-Philippines Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation had comprehensive discussions on political, defence, security, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries. Both sides committed to increasing bilateral trade and investment and maximising the potential on offer.

According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, it was decided that the two countries would work to fully maximize the potential of the Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment. Khurshid welcomed the Philippines' facilitation in the expansion of Indian investments in this Southeast Asian nation in different sectors, particularly textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, tourism, renewable energy and automotive parts.

Given the phenomenal growth and symbiotic relationship of Indian and Philippine information technology-enabled services (ITeS) companies, both sides committed to conclude at the earliest a proposed memorandum of understanding in information and communications technology (ICT).

Regarding terrorism, both sides affirmed their condemnation of this global scourge in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated their commitment to expand and deepen cooperation in counter-terrorism. The two countries decided to convene a joint working group on counter terrorism, in New Delhi next year to discuss all issues related to terrorism and other transnational crimes.

Both sides also agreed to start negotiations on a mutual legal assistance treaty in criminal matters (MLAT) in December this year and consider a transfer of sentenced persons agreement (TSP).

Del Rosario also committed to push for the immediate ratification of a Philippines-India extradition treaty.

They also committed to increase exchanges in military training and education. The two sides agreed to step up cooperation in combating non-traditional threats through exchange of experiences and capacity building in areas like disaster management, food security and pandemics.

The Philippines side welcomed the cash support of $100,000 provided by India side for disaster relief following the recent devastating earthquake in that country.

"Secretary Del Rosario also briefed Minister Khurshid on the developments in the West Philippine Sea. Minister Khurshid expressed support for a peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea dispute consistent with freedom of navigation and the rule of law," the statement said.

Del Rosario reiterated the invitation of the Philippines' President Benigno S. Aquino to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit this country. Welcoming the invitations, Khurshid said that President Mukherjee looked forward looked forward to his visit to the Philippines in 2014.

"Given that personal equations matter in such issues, both Khurshid and Del Rosario hit it off like old friends to start a new chapter in bilateral relations," Indian Ambassador Amit Dasgupta told IANS.


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