Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, group has been the core of India’s Act East policy from its beginning.

“There are many similarities between India’s Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative’ and ASEAN’s ‘Outlook on Indo Pacific’,” the prime minister said at the India-ASEAN virtual summit. Modi also said that the strategic partnership of India and member countries of ASEAN is based on the shared historical, geographical and cultural heritage.

“We believe that a cohesive and responsible ASEAN is necessary for security and growth for all in the region,” he said. “It is our top priority to boost connectivity between India and ASEAN [be it] physical, economic, cultural, digital, financial or maritime.” Officials have said that India’s Act East Policy recognises connectivity as the key area in its broadest sense, according to The Indian Express.

Modi said that India and ASEAN have come closer in these sectors in the past few years. “I believe that our interaction today, even if held through a virtual medium, will be beneficial in bringing us closer.”

ASEAN is one of the most important associations of countries in the area. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are the members of the group. India, the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners.

Unidentified officials told The Indian Express that the partnership between India and ASEAN is set to achieve new strengths with the Indo-Pacific gaining salience in global discourse.

The Ministry of External Affairs had on Wednesday said that the summit will review the status of ASEAN-India strategic partnership and also look at the progress made in key secotrs such as maritime cooperation, connectivity, trade and commerce, capacity building and education.

“The leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen ASEAN-India engagement and in this context will note the adoption of ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025),” the ministry said in a statement. “Covid-19, post-pandemic economic recovery and important regional and international developments will also be discussed at the summit.