Modi’s regional power play


DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE: Narendra
Modi delivers the keynote address at
the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore
last Friday (1); and (below, from top to
bottom) inspecting an honour guard
with his Singapore counterpart Lee
Hsien Loong at the Istana last Friday;
flying a kite with Indonesia president
Joko Widodo at the National
Monument in Jakarta last
Wednesday (30); and shaking
hands with Malaysian prime
minister Mahathir Mohamad in
Putrajaya last Thursday (31)
DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE: Narendra Modi delivers the keynote address at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore last Friday (1); and (below, from top to bottom) inspecting an honour guard with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana last Friday; flying a kite with Indonesia president Joko Widodo at the National Monument in Jakarta last Wednesday (30); and shaking hands with Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya last Thursday (31)

INDIA OUTLINES LEADERSHIP ROLE ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA INDIA cemented its diplomatic and secu­rity ties across southeast Asia in a clear challenge to China, as prime minister Narendra Modi called last Friday (1) for nations to have “equal access” to shared maritime and air spaces, and regional disputes to be settled under international law. It’s not clear just how far New Delhi will take these relationships, given years of promise, and a general election due in 11 months that could be a distraction for Modi. And if India is already rattling China, it won’t want to spark open confrontation. But Modi has taken several concrete for­eign policy and security steps in southeast Asia in recent days. He signed an agreement with Indonesia to develop a port in the city of Sabang that would overlook the western entrance to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest waterways. The prime minister also agreed a pact with Singapore on logistical support for naval ships, submarines and military aircraft during visits. In addition, Modi flew to Kuala Lumpur for a late-scheduled call on Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who won last month’s general election, effec­tively cementing ties with three of the most influential southeast Asian nations. Last Friday, Modi told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s premier de­fence forum, that India would work with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. “We will work with them, individually or in formats of three or more, for a stable and peaceful region,” he said in the keynote speech at the forum. Several delegates, including US defence secretary Jim Mattis, voiced support. At the end of the forum last Sunday (3), Singapore defence minister Ng Eng Hen said: “I am sure many countries are delighted that India…

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