Speaking Of Asia

Mr Modi comes to the Shangri-La

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech today will be closely scrutinised for clues on what India will do in the face of an increasingly assertive China in the region.

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Since 2001, when Dr John Chipman of the International Institute of Strategic Studies thought up the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Singapore-supported forum has been the pre-eminent venue for defence diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific. Starting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in 2010, a series of government leaders from the Asian firmament, including Japan's Shinzo Abe, Australia's Malcolm Turnbull and Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, have lit up the event with keynote speeches.

One elusive quarry for Dr Chipman has been India. Reluctant to show its hand as it rapidly shuffled its diplomatic priorities and partners, conscious that its Eastward policy, which now extends to the US Pacific Command in Hawaii, has to be advanced at a pace that will not ruffle familiar rhythms in South-east Asia and East Asia, New Delhi had moved around the region with the stately pace but not the presence of the classical Asian elephant at a temple procession.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2018, with the headline Mr Modi comes to the Shangri-La. Subscribe