India underscored its firm commitment to make the strategic Indo-Pacific an area for shared economic growth as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday addressed the Maldivian Parliament, amidst China flexing its muscles in the region.
Modi arrived in the South Asian archipelago nation on Saturday to strengthen the bilateral ties on his first foreign visit since being elected to a second term, reflecting the importance India attaches to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy.
"The Indo-Pacific area is our lifeline and also the highway to trade. This is the key to our shared future in every sense," the Prime Minister said.
Modi underlined that at the Shangri-La Dialogue forum in Singapore last June, he had stressed on working together "to create openness, integration and balance" in the Indo-Pacific region.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military maneuvering in the region.
Terming Maldives "a marine neighbour" and a "friend", Modi said, "There is no small, big, weak and powerful in friends. The foundation of peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood rests on trust, goodwill and cooperation."
China has been trying to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific, which is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the sea.
In a veiled reference to Chinese predatory lending, Modi said, "India has always shared its achievements with the world. India's development partnership is to empower people, not to weaken them and neither to increase their (partner countries) dependence on us or to put an impossible burden of debt on the shoulders of future generations."
There is a growing criticism from several countries, specially from the US and India, that the massive loans being doled out by China for different projects, specially in smaller countries over and above their capacity to pay, has resulted in long term indebtedness.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)