August was a busy and productive month for India-Philippines ties. On 5 August, Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi telephoned Philippine President Mr Ferdinand R Marcos Jr. Though this was the first time the two leaders had spoken with each other, they struck an instant and excellent rapport.
This was no happenstance. As their conversation progressed, Prime Minister Modi realized that the focus areas for India’s expanded developmental partnership with the Philippines coincided with President Marcos’ own major priorities: agriculture, health and pharma as well as fintech and digital governance. These are all sectors where Prime Minister Modi has driven an unprecedented transformation in India, and President Marcos underlined his administration’s keen interest to learn from India’s successes.
The two leaders also agreed to work together on defense and security cooperation, given our shared objective of a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific. This emphatic reiteration of highest level political support from the two leaders will definitely propel our bilateral ties to an even higher trajectory in the years ahead.
Soon after the two leaders spoke, our most senior Foreign Ministry officials – Secretary East Amb. Saurabh Kumar and Undersecretary for Policy Amb. Ma Teresa Lazaro – held two days of comprehensive discussions on 17-18 August. Deliberations in the framework of Foreign Office Consultations reviewed bilateral ties and agreed upon several concrete steps to move the relationship forward.
This was followed by our Strategic Dialogue, which covered key regional and global issues of mutual interest, including recent developments in Europe and the Indo-Pacific that are profoundly impacting our two developing economies.
Aug. 15 was a special day, with India celebrating its 75th Anniversary of Independence. In Manila, we held, for the first time in over two years, an in-person National Day reception. It was a privilege to welcome the First Lady H.E. Louise Araneta Marcos as the guest of honor at the event, along with Speaker of the House of Representatives H.E. Martin Romualdez. Senior representatives of the Philippine government and the armed forces, business, media and civil society as well as the diplomatic corps joined members of the vibrant Indian community in the Philippines to mark the historic occasion.
The completion of 75 years of independence is being celebrated across India and the world as “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,” an immortal celebration. Of course, 75 years is a short time for a civilizational state such as India, with a glorious heritage spanning thousands of years. But it was an occasion to mark India’s emergence on the global stage as the world’s largest democracy, its fastest growing major economy and a leading voice in global affairs.
This transformation has been possible due to the infinite talent and incredible energy of India’s people, especially its youth. As Prime Minister Modi has said, India’s growth is driven by three Ds – democracy, demography and demand.
We are confident that in the digitally enabled, knowledge-driven world of tomorrow, India’s bright minds and skilled people will surely drive the nation to greater and greater heights. There is growing confidence that as we move on to the landmark 100 years of India’s independence, the coming 25 years will be India’s time to shine as never before.
But the celebration in Manila was not just about India’s 75 years, it was equally about India’s very special friendship with this great nation of the Philippines.
India and Philippines have a history of mutually enriching engagement that spans several centuries. As a fellow democracy, an Asian partner and as a dynamic economy, our relations with the Philippines are of enormous importance to us in India. For me it has been a great honor to represent India in the Philippines as we enter the most dynamic phase of our bilateral engagement ever.
From our ever-closer political dialogue, to our growing trade and investment ties, to our deepening developmental partnership cutting across vital sectors such as health, agriculture, finance and infrastructure, to our dynamic engagement in defense and security and to the vibrancy of our cultural interactions, India and the Philippines have never been as close as we are today.
We will work on the agenda of our leaders to usher in a developmental partnership that meets aspirations of our young and vibrant populations, and one that safeguards our respective national security interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
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Shambhu S. Kumaran is the Ambassador of India to the Philippines.