PM Modi, Xi likely to attend East Asia Summit, ASEAN meetings in Jakarta

Visit by the Indian Prime Minister at a busy time with the G20 summit, is seen as a special gesture to Indonesia, part of the G20 Troika

Updated - August 24, 2023 07:23 am IST

Published - August 23, 2023 09:41 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at Open Plenary Session of BRICS Summit, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 23, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at Open Plenary Session of BRICS Summit, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 23, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Close on the heels of the BRICS summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping could come face-to-face again in Indonesia, if both leaders decide attend the East Asian Summit (EAS) and other meetings with the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) bloc of countries in September. According to sources, Mr. Modi is now considering plans to fly to Jakarta for a very short visit on September 6, and return to India on September 7 just prior to the G20 summit, which begins on September 9. 

Earlier, officials had said the Prime Minister’s schedule before the G20 summit was making it difficult for him to attend the meetings in Jakarta as Mr. Modi needs to return to Delhi in time for the arrival of leaders for the G20 summit. After the possibility of a rescheduling of the EAS and ASEAN-India summit, however, so that both are completed by the afternoon of September 7, it is understood that the Prime Minister’s Office is likely to accept the invitation. 

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment or confirm Mr. Modi’s visit to Indonesia.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Jakarta will be seen as an affirmation of India’s ties with the ASEAN grouping, and underline “ASEAN centrality” as the basis for India’s Indo-Pacific policy, the sources said. In addition, the trip would denote a special gesture to Indonesia, which is a member of the “G20 Troika” at present, and helping India with negotiations for a G20 joint declaration. Mr. Modi’s decision to skip the ASEAN-India summit and EAS held in Cambodia in November 2022 was met with considerable disappointment as it marked the milestone 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations, where ties were raised to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The ASEAN-India summit in September is also expected to give a boost to talks over reviewing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This week, ASEAN-India Economic Ministers met in Indonesia after a joint committee agreed to a regular, quarterly schedule of negotiations, which would conclude the review of the ASEAN-India FTA in 2025.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attendance at the G20 is not yet confirmed, sources said he may now attend the East Asia Summit this year as well. His travel, if confirmed, would come after a visit to China by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who met with Mr. Xi in Chengdu on July 28, where both sides affirmed the importance of China-ASEAN ties, and President Widodo is believed to have pressed him to attend the Summit. The decisions by President Xi and Mr. Modi could set the stage for a possible meeting in Jakarta, as the military commanders on both sides have intensified efforts to resolve the three year old border stand-off between them in Ladakh, and push to disengagement the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers stationed there, and de-escalate tensions between the two countries.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden will not attend the East Asia Summit, the White House announced on Wednesday, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the U.S. instead in Jakarta.

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will travel to New Delhi, India, from September 7-10 to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit,” a White House statement said, listing combating climate change issues, mitigating the impacts of “Putin’s war in Ukraine”, and building up the capacity of the World Bank and other multilateral banks among the American President’s priorities at the G20.

“While in New Delhi, President Biden will also commend Prime Minister Modi’s leadership of the G20 and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the G20 as the premier forum of economic cooperation, including by hosting it in 2026,” the White House statement added.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as well as other leaders attending the 10-nation ASEAN summit, who are among the leaders invited to the G20 summit, including Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong, as well as EAS members Australian PM Anthony Albanese and Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol, are expected to travel directly from Jakarta to Delhi on September 8. It is still unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend either the EAS or G20 summit.

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