Manila: Prime Minister Narendra Modi departed for a three-day visit to Philippines on Sunday to attend the 15th ASEAN-India summit and 12th East Asia summit, but all eyes will be on his expected bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Official sources said the two leaders will hold one-on-one talks for 45 minutes on Monday afternoon. Trump is also scheduled to arrive in Manila on Sunday as part of his five-nation Asia tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Monday’s meeting assumes significance as it will be the first between the two leaders following a proposal to have a quadrilateral alliance among India, US, Japan and Australia.
Modi is also scheduled to have bilateral meetings with the two other members of the proposed alliance - Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe – on Tuesday. He will also meet Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and the Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Japan last month had indicated that it would propose a top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia. Sources said officials of the four countries may meet on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit here.
The move to set up the quadrilateral comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically key “Indo-Pacific” region.
The use of the term "Indo-Pacific" by Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so-called Quadrilateral strategic alliance to counter China's rise.
In their meeting, Modi and Trump are likely to discuss a host of key issues of mutual interest including the security scenario in the region.
Trump on Friday praised India's "astounding" growth after it opened up its economy and also lauded Modi, saying he has been working successfully to bring the vast country and its people together.
Speaking at a gathering of CEOs on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang, Trump cited India as one of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region making strides.
He praised India as a sovereign democracy with a population of over 1 billion as well as the largest democracy in the world.
Modi is expected to meet many other leaders attending the two summits. He will also participate in the ASEAN business and investment summit as well as a meeting of leaders of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The RCEP, comprising the 10-member ASEAN bloc and six other countries - India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, is engaged in negotiations for a free trade pact.
In his maiden visit to the Philippines as prime minister, Modi will also attend a reception by the Indian community and visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Mahavir Philippines Foundation.