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With US President Donald Trump signaling that he was set on a tariff regime, India made its presence felt at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to take the lead at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his presence felt by demanding that the world must fight against protectionism to signal disenchantment with Trump’s “America First” paradigm.
A Gallup poll showed India, Germany and several other countries also expressing loss of faith in the US’ leadership.
Modi’s reminded that India’s economy had multiplied more than six times in two decades and highlighted economic reform – and market liberalization as the catalyst.
He delivered the same message at the summit meeting with the ASEAN leaders on in Delhi following Davos.
The Delhi Declaration not only avoids any mention of the idea of the “Quad” (quadrilateral alliance of the US, Japan, Australia and India) and ignores mentioning the “Indo-Pacific” choosing instead to refer to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
But, India reiterated its position on “ASEAN centrality in and Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”
Among other players Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his closing speech at the summit, in his capacity as the ASEAN chairman: “ASEAN and India should work together to ensure the conclusion of the negotiations in 2018 so that the benefits can be realized earlier.”
Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said: “I believe India will not disappoint ASEAN. I believe India will stand with ASEAN to conclude the negotiation for the RCEP this year.”
Meanwhile Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in an interview with an Indian daily that there had been “positive and commendable signs” of an easing of tensions in ASEAN-China relations and he anticipated more confidence-building measures.
And, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte proposed that ASEAN should take China’s help in maritime security to put an end to piracy and other problems in the Celebes and Sulu seas.
That said, ASEAN leaders reportedly “pin much higher hopes on India intrinsically as a driver of growth for their economies at a juncture when the consensus on globalization” read analysts.
With all of this on the line, the US will be hard put to bring the ‘Quad Squad’ into play.