MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will once again meet his fellow Southeast Asian leaders in India when they attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India Commemorative Summit and India’s Republic Day celebration later this month.
Assistant Secretary Ma. Hellen De La Vega, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of ASEAN Affairs, said Duterte will arrive in New Delhi on January 24 in time for the summit set to begin the next day.
The summit, with the theme “Shared Values and Common Destiny,” has two sessions, De La Vega said.
The first is the retreat where leaders will discuss maritime cooperation. The other is the plenary session where leaders are expected to discuss “regional and international issues as well as the future course of ASEAN-India relations.”
Capping the summit is a cultural program and banquet hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 25.
De La Vega said there is no word yet whether Duterte will have a chance to do bilateral meetings with some of the leaders on the sidelines of the summit.
She added the leaders are expected to come up with the “Delhi Declaration” after the summit, which shall contain a “roadmap” for further cooperation between ASEAN and India.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN leaders will also serve as “chief guests” in India's celebration of Republic Day on January 26.
De La Vega said this shows how the Indian government values the regional bloc.
Duterte had met Modi in the Philippines in November on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, where the Filipino leader expressed interest in purchasing more affordable medicine from India.
De La Vega said the medicine procurement, along with other regional concerns and bilateral issues, may be discussed if Duterte holds another one-on-one meeting with Modi.
Duterte’s India trip is his first travel abroad this year. It will also be the first time he will set foot on the Asian subcontinent.
India remained one of ASEAN’s top trading partners in 2016, with total trade volume amounting to $58.45 billion, De La Vega noted.
In 2017, India was one of ASEAN’s top five partners in development assistance with funded projects and programs amounting to $55.5 million.