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Islamic State, South China Sea to figure in Asean, EAS discussions

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New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) Concerns over jihadist group Islamic State and territorial bickering over the South China Sea, especially in the face of an assertive China, are set to be prominent at the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN in Myanmar next week where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have his first brush with a large section of world leaders at a single stage.

 

With Singapore, a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, agreeing earlier this week to join the coalition of 33 other nations in a multinational coalition to combat the Islamic State militant group, the discussions at both the ASEAN-India and EAS next week are likely to see the discussions focusing substantially on the topic.

Singapore has agreed to join the ongoing international efforts by contributing "directly to Singapore’s own security" in the form of ground support by way of sending liaison and planning officers and deploying refueling tanker aircraft.

There are concerns among many countries that the extremist elements who have joined the Islamic State in its movement to set up a caliphate would on their return set off extremist attacks in their own countries.

Prime Minister Modi would be attending the 12th ASEAN-India Summit Nov 12 and the Ninth East Asia Summit the following day in capital Nay Pyi Taw.

Australia has already joined the fight against the IS, including with air strikes.

With many of its own citizens having joined the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, and some elements launching ‘lone wolf" attacks in the country, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is likely to raise the matter in a big way.

The Islamic State has named Australia as one of five main targets for terrorist attacks, calling for "stab the crusader" to be a "battle cry" for its supporters around the world.

US President Barack Obama, who will be part of the deliberations, is likely to take up the issue too, seeking more support for the US-led war against the IS.

The festering South China Sea dispute is likely to figure majorly with many Southeast Asian countries, and Japan nursing grudges against Beijing for its assertive way over the sea that is rich in resources, including hydrocarbons and fish.

The 10 ASEAN members are – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Besides India, the other members of the EAS are the ASEAN and Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.

India would seek to push for improving connectivity with the ASEAN, as well as for more trade and people-to-people connect.

Once the Free Trade Pact in services and investment with ASEAN, expected soon, is inked, bilateral trade with the block is expected to touch $100 billion by 2015.

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