NEW DELHI: India will offer 1,000 scholarships at Indian Institutes of Technology to PhD students from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Speaking after the conclusion of the commemorative summit to mark 25 years of India-ASEAN relations, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, said this was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his opening address to the plenary session of the summit attended by all 10 ASEAN heads of state on Thursday.
After noting the “excellent progress” in implementing objectives of the ASEAN-India Partnership, Modi declared that “an important focus of our commemorative events celebrates the power of our youth, our future ... To further empower our youth in our region, I have the pleasure to announce 1,000 Fellowships to students and researchers from ASEAN countries for studying integrated PhD programmes in IITs, India’s premier institutions of imparting knowledge.”
“India shares ASEAN’s vision of peace and prosperity through a rules-based order for the oceans and seas. Respect for international law is critical for this. We remain committed to work with ASEAN to enhance practical cooperation in our shared maritime domain,” he said.
A senior diplomat, however, noted that “despite all the hype and hyperbole, there are several underlying issues like Indian reluctance to fully open up its markets for goods and services, and the long pending India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which cannot be wished away by ignoring them.”
According to Saran, all the ASEAN leaders had expressed admiration for India’s growth story, and some had even sought details on use of the Aadhaar card and other attempts at curbing corruption initiated by the Modi government. All the leaders wanted India to play a major role in the region, she said.
Modi held bilateral meetings with nine of the 10 ASEAN leaders over the past two days, while the visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had been upgraded to an official one.
She then spoke of the “amazing spectacle” of 10 heads of state at the saluting dais with President Ram Nath Kovind and the Prime Minister to watch the parade, which had two tableaus depicting the deep civilisational and cultural linkages between India and ASEAN nations. This was a “huge exercise in logistics and security,” because though “we’ve had several summits (involving multiple heads of states) they have never coincided with Republic Day,” she said.