New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced a contribution of USD 1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund at the 17th ASEAN-India Summit, which was held virtually.

He also pitched for convergence of approach between India and the 10-nation ASEAN in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, a region that has witnessed renewed global focus in view of China's expansionist behaviour.

In his address to leaders from the 10 ASEAN countries, PM Modi also highlighted India's response and broader support to the international community and welcomed the association's initiatives to fight the pandemic.

According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), "On COVID-19, the Prime Minister highlighted India's response and broader support to the international community and welcomed ASEAN''s initiatives to fight the pandemic. Prime Minister announced a contribution of US$ 1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. The Prime Minister also underscored the importance of greater physical and digital connectivity between ASEAN and India and reiterated India's offer of US$ 1 billion Line of Credit to support ASEAN connectivity."

In his address, Modi also underscored the importance of greater physical and digital connectivity between ASEAN and India. The PM also re-iterated India's offer of USD 1 billion Line of Credit to support ASEAN connectivity, Secretary (East) in the MEA Riva Ganguly Das said at an online media briefing about the summit. The summit took place amid China's aggressive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea, Indo-Pacific region as well as in eastern Ladakh.

A number of ASEAN countries have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. The secretary said the discussions also covered regional and international issues of common interest and concern including South China Sea and terrorism. "Both sides noted the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region including through upholding adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

The MEA statement further said that the Prime Minister underlined the centrality of ASEAN in India's Act East Policy while addressing the ASEAN-India Summit.

"He noted that a cohesive, responsive and prosperous ASEAN is central to India’s Indo-Pacific Vision and contributes to Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Prime Minister underscored the importance of strengthening convergence between India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, to ensure a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. He also invited the ASEAN countries to cooperate on various pillars of India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)," the MEA said.