By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind renewed India’s commitment to its partnership with the Philippines as the two countries mark the 70th year of bilateral relations.
Stressing that the Philippines is an important partner for India, Kovind expressed resolve to even bring the partnership of the two countries to another level.
In his remarks during the banquet hosted by President Duterte in Malacañang, Kovind described his visit to the Philippines as a “landmark” in both countries’ bilateral journey.
“I have undertaken this state visit to the Philippines to celebrate the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and to yet again commit ourselves to the Philippines-India bilateral partnership,” he said Friday evening.
The Indian leader also credited the commonalities between India and the Philippines as the reason behind the friendly ties of the two Asian nations.
“Our relations are warm and friendly based, as they are, on our shared values and outlook. We are both democracies that believe in the sovereignty – sovereign equality of nations, and respect for and adherence to international law,” Kovind said.
“We are forward-looking partners committed to peace and prosperity for our peoples and for the world at large,” he added.
Kovind then said that India is keen to test its civilizational links with the Philippines, expressing confidence about the existence of a ‘rich tapestry’ of shared heritage waiting to be researched and documented.
“The discovery of the statue of Tara in Agusan and the commonality in our languages and art speak of vibrant cultural exchanges in the ancient past. And much to our delight, our contemporary cultural attributes, be it music or dance, karaoke, our Kathak, continue to bring our two peoples together,” he said.
Duterte, for his part, agreed that the Philippines and India have a lot in common.
“The Philippines and India have a long history of contacts and friendship. Long before the Europeans appeared over the horizons, our ancestors [had] had dealings with yours, mediated by the vast empires of [the] Majapahit [and] Srivijaya,” he said.
“Indian blood runs in the veins [of] over a million of our countrymen. Words of Sanskrit origin fill our lexicon. And the Indian influence persists in our arts and, perhaps, even in our [world view],” he added.
Realizing the growing importance of India’s partnership with the Philippines, Kovind hopes to raise this relationship to another level.
“Despite the global economic slowdown, both India and the Philippines are registering appreciable growth. Our bilateral trade and investment, our collaboration in science and technology, our cooperation in human resource development, and of course our cultural exchanges will continue to add new energy and momentum to our ties,” he said.
“We deeply appreciate your commitment and attention to the lessons with India. For us, too, the Philippines is of growing importance as a partner in the Indo-Pacific and we are keen to take this relationship to a new height,” he added.
Kovind’s visit is the third high-level exchange between the Philippines and India since Duterte took office. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Manila in November 2017, while Duterte flew to New Delhi in January 2018 for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit.
On Friday, the Philippines and India exchanged four agreements on maritime security, tourism, science and technology, and cultural exchange. Both Duterte and Kovind agreed that the said understandings speak of the two countries’ growing collaboration.