India and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations on 26 November 1949, shortly after both countries gained independence [Philippines in 1946 and India in 1947]. The year 2019 thus marks the completion of seventy years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Relations between the two countries have been friendly and problem free. It would be fair to say though that despite historical shared values and commonalities, such as anticolonialism, South-South cooperation, a strong democratic polity, an independent judiciary and press, and the wide use of the English language, the full potential of the relationship between the two countries is yet far from attainment and is reflective of a lack of informed knowledge about one another.
When India launched her Look East Policy and intensified partnership with ASEAN in 1992, this also resulted in intensified relations with countries in the region including the Philippines, both bilaterally and in the regional context. With the Act East Policy initiated in 2014, the relationship with Philippines has diversified further into political-security; trade and industry and people-to-people realms
Political, Security and Defence:
- High level visits and interactions between India and the Philippines have seen intensification especially since the initiation of ASEAN-India Summit level partnership and establishment of East Asia Summit, of which India is a founding member.
- 5 MoU’s on Defence Industry and Logistics Cooperation, MoU between ICWA and FSI, MoU on Cooperation on Agriculture, MoU on MSME and MoU between ICCR and Univ of Philippines for setting up a chair of India studies , have been concluded
- Government of India conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award to Mr. Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council in the Philippines for his contribution in the field of Trade and Industry
- The mainstay of bilateral defence cooperation continue to be capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegations and naval and coast guard ship visits
Trade and Commerce:
- Economic relations between the two countries have grown rapidly in recent years although still modest given the potential that exists.
- India-Philippines trade in 2018-19 has been at around US $ 2.32 billion (Exports from India to Philippines-US $ 1743 million and Imports from Philippines by India- US $ 581 million).
- A number of growth drivers suggest a major and sustained growth in two-way trade and investment in future, helped by the conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade in Services and Investment Agreements.
- Indian investment in the Philippines is mainly in the areas of textiles, IT&ITES, Infrastructure (airports), chemicals, automobiles and pharmaceuticals
- The earliest major Indian investment in the Philippines was the Aditya Birla Group in textiles & Chemicals (Indo Phil Group).
- Tata Motors and Mahindra have made their presence felt in the Automobile sector. Collaboration in the BPO sector has grown exponentially in the last ten years or so. Several Indian IT companies have already set up BPO operations in the Philippines and these include companies like WIPRO, TCS, L&T Infotech, Innodata, IL&FS Genpact, Infosys, HGS, Tech Mahindra
- Indian companies have a strong presence in Pharma (Generics) where Pharma majors like Dabur Pharma, Lupin, Torrent, ZydusCadilla, and Claris Life sciences have set up liaison office to promote their products.
- Various Joint Working Groups [JWG] have been set up and their meetings, particularly the JWG on Trade and Investment, on Agriculture, on Health, on Tourism and on Renewable Energy are expected to identify new growth and partnership areas between government and industry in both countries and contribute towards enhanced two-way growth in trade and investment.
Culture & People to People Relations:
- Philippines is one of the beneficiary countries of programmes under ITEC and Colombo Plan. During 2018-19, Philippines utilsed as many as 90 civilian training slots under ITEC and Colombo Plan.
- Similarly, about 35 slots are allotted for defence personnel out of which the majority were utilised.
- To date almost a thousand Filipino nationals have benefited from training and exposure under these schemes, covering a wide range of technical courses, such as rural development, agriculture, renewable energy, small scale industries, banking, finance and management, quality control and marketing, planning and public administration, textiles, parliamentary studies and legislative practices, computer software, water resources management, defence, etc.
- There exists a Cultural Exchange Programme between the two countries and an Executive Programme on Cultural Exchanges
- There has been significant increase in people-to-people links between India and the Philippines.
- The number of Indian tourists visiting the Philippines has shown a rapid growth in the past few years and now numbers about 120,000 annually
- The Indian community in the Philippines, according to the Bureau of Immigration, is estimated to be about 1, 30,000. Around 5,000 persons of Indian origin have acquired Filipino citizenship. Punjabis and Sindhis, constitute the bulk of the community. The past ten years has seen a growing number of professionals, and their families estimated in the range of about five to six thousand, who are working in the Philippines, for Indian companies, organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, International Rice Research Institute, UN agencies, as also in multinational corporations, BPOs and with local Filipino companies\
- The Philippines is also beginning to emerge as a destination for Indian students. There are more than 12,000 Indian students pursuing medical courses in various universities in the Philippines
- The resident Indian community is active in celebration of Indian festivals and various social events. They also undertake social welfare activities and come to the assistance of people in distress during natural calamities. The major association is the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
- A number of other associations also exist such as Indian Ladies Club, Bharati Indian Expats Women’s Association and spiritual organisations such as Sri Satya Sai Organization, Art of Living, Chinmaya Ashram, Brahma Kumaris, Siddhi Yoga and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.