President Rodrigo Duterte described India as a “rising superpower” and said the Philippines intends to purchase military hardware from the South Asian country.
Duterte is in India to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – India Commemorative Summit and India’s Republic Day celebration, where he and fellow regional leaders were considered chief guests.
India’s invitation is widely seen as a charm offensive in the face of economic powerhouse China’s diplomatic moves in Southeast Asia.
“The President emphasized the commonality between the Philippines and India and that is the pursuit of an independent foreign policy.”
Some analysts see India, the world’s largest democracy, as a counter to China’s military and economic might.
The Philippines was embroiled in a bitter maritime dispute with China, but Duterte, since assuming power, has chosen to downplay this in exchange for Chinese aid and other economic benefits.
In forging closer ties with China, Duterte has insisted his government is merely pursuing an independent foreign policy. He had lambasted Manila’s long-time ally, the United States, over the Obama administration’s criticisms of his war on drugs, but bilateral ties warmed again after President Donald Trump took over.
Duterte had expressed intention to purchase firearms and military equipment from China and Russia, following calls in the US to block any firearms importation to the Philippines due to concerns over human rights.
China and Russia have since donated military equipment to the Philippines.
According to Roque, “there was a commitment for the Philippines to purchase Indian military hardware.”