Association of South–East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
–> The Association of South–East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
–> India’s relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s.
–> ‘Look East Policy’ is India’s research for economic space.
–> India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy.
ASEAN – Important Facts:
–> India is not a member of ASEAN.
–> ASEAN HQ: Jakarta (Indonesia); Established in 1967 in Bangkok via Bangkok Declaration.
–> Founding Fathers of ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Principle of “ASEAN way”
ASEAN follows the principle of “ASEAN way” viz.
(i) Consultation and Agreement (Musyawarah And Mufakat)
(ii) Don’t use force / confrontation
(iii) Don’t interfere in the internal matters of states
(iv) Informal discussion
(v) Minimal institutionalization.
Hanoi Plan of Action (POA):
Hanoi Plan of Action (POA) to implement ASEAN Vision 2020 involving concrete and practical actions in the fields of:
–> Disaster relief
–> Maritime security
–> Non–proliferation and Disarmament
Why ASEAN important for India?
–> ASEAN nations are at the intersections of major land and sea routes.
–> The Future architecture of Asia is going to be shaped by the US, China and India.
–> Maritime boundary disputes between China and a number of ASEAN countries; claims over South China Sea – hence those ASEAN countries look towards India as a counterbalance against China.
–> For India, a stronger posturing at ASEAN provides its stature as a global power. After all, without becoming a strong regional player first, we cannot dream of becoming global power!
–> ASEAN countries, particularly Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia can potentially contribute to India’s energy security.
–> Oil and natural gas deposits in the South China Sea region.
–> India and several ASEAN countries are net importers of hydrocarbon. They need to develop alternative energy sources. Hence regional cooperation essential for financing those projects.
–> The ASEAN is India’s 4th–largest trading partner after the EU, the US and China.
–> India–ASEAN is slated to grow faster than the rest of the world due to a favorable demographic profile and growing market for goods and services.
–> India’s trade relations are shifting from West economies towards the East, comprising of Japan, China, Korea and ASEAN.
–> India–ASEAN linkage provides for large–scale movement of people, capital, ideas and creativity.
For Indian States
–> The coastal states: West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are looking to rebuild maritime links with ASEAN nations to boost their own trade and economy.
–> Union government is also building infrastructure in the Northeastern states so they can engage in commerce with South East Asian nations.
India–ASEAN Current relations:
–> The year 2017 also completes 15 years of India–ASEAN dialogue at the summit.
–> 2017 also commemorates the completion of five years of strategic partnership between India & ASEAN.
–> India’s bid to accentuate its links with ASEAN comes at a time of flux in the region with China seen as growing more assertive vis–à–vis its territorial claims in the oil and gas–rich South China Sea, which is also a major international maritime trade route.
Challenges in India–ASEAN Relations:
–> Following the uncertain behavior of China, Indian Ocean has become unpredictable and it might become the next battle ground.
–> Problems in the implementation of India–Myanmar–Thailand (IMT) Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Multimodal Transit and Transport Project.
–> China’s territorial claims in the oil and gas‐rich South China Sea, which is also a major international maritime trade route.
–> Transforming “corridors of connectivity” to “corridors of trade“ needs to be fast‐tracked to realize their full business potential.
–> Terrorism, religious extremism and the ISIS are dangers to the region and both India and ASEAN should work closer to check these menaces.
–> Focusing on potential of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for boosting economic cooperation, due to the large roles SMEs play in Vietnam and the Philippines.
–> Enhancing people–to–people connectivity and nourishing the civilizational linkages within the region.
–> India needs to evolve into a robust security provider in the region.
–> Cultivate intra–regional tourism, educational cooperation, and the potential of Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia.
–> India’s geostrategic interests in the Indo–Pacific region depend on India’s bilateral and multilateral engagements with the countries in the region.
–> Maintaining cordiality with ASEAN as an organization and with the individual Southeast Asian countries remains crucial for India.