|Introduction: Context of India-Philippines bilateral relationship.|
Body: Describe briefly the evolution of bilateral relations and how has it impacted dynamics in the South China Sea.
Conclusion: Way forward.
Recently, Foreign Ministers of India and the Philippines met on the sidelines of the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, in New Delhi outlining the path for a strengthened bilateral partnership between Manila and Delhi in the 21st century after completing 75 years of diplomatic history.
Evolution of India-Philippines bilateral relations:
- Political relations: India and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations on 26 November 1949, with both nations strengthening their relationship following the Act East Policy.
- Economic relations: Bilateral trade has increased from 1.89 billion USD in 2015-16 to 2.84 billion USD in 2021-22. Both nations are expanding economic relations to cover collaboration between the Philippine Space Agency and the ISRO.
- Maritime relations: Both nations are committed to the stability and security of a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. India and the Philippines also participate in ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise.
- Defense relations: Both nations have a growing defense and security partnership with the signing of a $374-million contract for the procurement by the Philippines’ defense forces of India’s BrahMos Shore-based Anti-Ship Missile System & taking part in maritime RIMPAC exercise.
How does this relationship influence geopolitical dynamics in South China Sea region?
- Strengthen Defence relationship: India has decided to open a resident defense attaché office in Manila, cooperation between the Coast Guards of the two countries; acquisition of naval assets by Manila under a concessional line of credit from Delhi; expansion of training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster responses, and commencing a maritime dialogue are some of the noted steps taken recently.
- Securing Sea Lines of Communication: South China Sea is a crucial maritime gateway and junction for shipping between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. India and the Philippines both have a vital interest in safeguarding the shipping lanes in terms of geopolitics, economy, and global security.
- Peaceful resolution of disputes: Both nations are committed to peaceful conflict resolution based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS involving disputed islands in the South China Sea claimed both by China & Philippines.
The geopolitical dynamics in South China region can be resolved only through dialogue involving all stakeholders, especially ASEAN nations by working towards the creation of a “political framework” and progress towards a legally binding “code of conduct”. More intense regional cooperation is necessary to fully utilize the Indo-Pacific as a growth engine. To support the region’s position as a global economic powerhouse, stronger economic integration, better connectivity, and increased innovation are essential. The Philippines and India play significant roles in this regard as leaders in the promotion of inclusive multilateralism and the rule of law.