By Darryl John Esguerra

DEEPER TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (center) welcomes Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (3rd from left) at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday (March 26, 2024). During their meeting, the Indian official extended an invitation for Marcos to visit India to mark the 75th anniversary of the Philippines-India diplomaic relations. (Photo courtesy of Bongbong Marcos Facebook)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. received an invitation for a state visit to India, as he looks to strengthen the Philippines’ partnership and economic cooperation with the South Asian giant in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure, and defense.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar extended the invitation to Marcos during his courtesy visit in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi looks forward to welcoming Marcos in India for a state visit,” the Indian official said, as quoted by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) in a news release.

Jaishankar added that it would be nice if the President’s visit coincides with 75th anniversary celebration of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and India were established in 1949.

President Marcos welcomed the invitation, according to the PCO.

In their meeting, Marcos also expressed gratitude to India for its decision to export 295,000 metric tons of non-basmati white rice to the Philippines and said that he hoped that the two countries would “do better” in terms of cooperation in other areas.

“I’d like to thank you, and please extend my gratitude to your Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) for the timely provision of imported rice that we bought from India. The very critical… a very crucial time since we are in the right now suffering the effects [of] drought,” Marcos said.

“We hope to do better and I hope to continue this trade with India, but not only in agri products but in other [areas]. The ambassador has been working very hard to promote all of these different exchanges,” he added.

In October last year, India, the world’s largest rice exporter, approved the shipping of 295,000 metric tons of non-basmati white rice to the Philippines, the highest allocation it gave to a foreign nation after lifting the restriction to specific countries to allay the rise in prices in its domestic market.

India also expressed support for the Philippines in asserting its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea in light of the China Coast Guard’s water cannon attack on a Philippine supply vessel over the weekend.

Likewise, the President expressed gratitude to the government of India for its “swift and decisive action” in rescuing the crew members of MV True Confidence, which included over a dozen Filipinos, after the merchant ship was attacked by Houthi rebels while plying the Gulf of Aden on March 6. (PNA)