The bilateral relations between India and the Philippines are well assimilating the essence of geopolitical and geo-economic developments in the Indo-Pacific.India’s Act East Policy and the Philippines’ new foreign policy orientation through its Indo-Pacific approach are cordial and complementary to this relationship. Both countries share common values and many other commonalities.Thus, the current stage of the relationship between India and the Philippinesaccrues to arobustinteraction through millennia of culture, religion, and trade and commerce, and overall economic interactions.
In this 21st century, the Indo-Pacific region presents ample opportunities and challenges that can be tackled with international cooperation and bilateral partnerships.India and the Philippines share a similar understanding of the region and have re-affirmed a dramatic change in their bilateral ties covering the broad canvas of consultations and cooperation on issues related to foreign policy, defence and security, trade, tourism and people-to-people ties. There is a significant degree of complementarity between India and the Philippines in how they engage in the Indo-Pacific. The recent and historic Brahmos deal between the two countries clearly outlines the strengthened and forward-looking bilateral relationship.In this light, the Ananta Centre held a digital session on “The Philippines: India’s New Indo-Pacific Partner” addressed by H.E. Mr. Shambhu S. Kumaran, India’s Ambassador to the Philippines. This session was chaired by Mr. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Columnist and Former Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, Visiting Fellow, Ananta Aspen Centre.
The significant relationship between India and the Philippines was centred on trade and commerce, political cooperation, and people-to-people ties; and now, albeit lately, it has expanded to Defense, Security, Cybersecurity, Healthcare, and advanced technologies such as AI. Therefore, the successful signing of the US$ 375 Brahmos deal between India and the Philippines on January, 28th, 2022 is not merely a bilateral arms-trade-off between the two countries but is one of the characterizing features of India’s positive and holistic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal is looked upon as a transformational moment in India-Philippines bilateral relationship.
India-Philippines bilateral relations are now an all-time high in political, economic and defence spectrums. With the Brahmos deal, the current elevation in this relationship outlines a clear and strong message for expansionist and aggressive power like China in the region. The Brahmos Deal has further widened the scope of India-Philippines bilateral relations. India’s Indo-Pacific orientation is welcomed and very positively looked upon by the Philippines. The Brahmos deal has opened new avenues for cooperation in areas like Maritime Security and New Age technologies such as AI.
Moreover, the much revered and cherished bonhomie between the heads of the state,PM Narendra Modi and President Rodrigo Duterte are defining features of this historic deal and the overall trajectory of the bilateral relationship. On the other side, economic cooperation between the two countries is the chief pillar of this relationship. It was very clearly evident even during times of global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, India stood as one of the primary suppliers of healthcare in the Philippines. In addition, India is the largest supplier of pharmaceuticals to the Philippines. Similarly, the Philippines is India’s largest pharma market in ASEAN amounting to US$ 300 million of Indian pharma exports to the country. India’s Vaccine capability and larger healthcare such as medical devices and healthcare services are of immense significance to the Philippines.
In the technology sector, the Philippines has a robust presence of major Indian IT companies. The active engagement of Indian IT companies in the Philippines has positively impacted the country’s economy and development sectors. As per the latest estimate, around 150,000 to 250,000 jobs have been created by Indian IT companies in the Philippines. Among all IT companies, Wipro is one of the largest IT recruiters in the country.Similarly, FinTech, Digital Banking and Transfers— Digital Payment Systems have emerged as central strengthens and new avenues for cooperation between the two countries. There are also talks of providing additional soft loans to the Philippines such as through Exim Bank Lines of Credit.
On the South China Sea, India and the Philippines strictly adhere to the rules-based order and free and open navigation. Both belief in territorial integrity, sovereignty and peaceful co-existence of the countries in the Indo-Pacific. The Filipino approach to Quad is very constructive and sees India as a key pillar of Quad. It was also highlighted during India’s Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar’s recent visit in February 2022. The Philippines see Quad in accordance with the principles of the ASEAN outlook. In a nutshell, India and the Philippines are set to take the transformational moment in their bilateral ties to newer heights. India and the Philippines’ partnership in the Indo-Pacific can tackle global and regional challenges and leverage several opportunities.
This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series.”
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