24th ASEAN-India Meeting
- 17 Jun 2022
- 9 min read
Why in News?
Recently, the 24th ASEAN-India Senior Official's Meeting (SOM) was hosted in Delhi.
- India and ASEAN celebrated the 30th anniversary of their Dialogue Relations.
- Earlier, the 2nd ASEAN Digital Ministers' (ADGMIN) Meeting with India held, where two sides finalized India-ASEAN Digital work plan 2022 for future collaboration in the field.
What is Association of Southeast Asian Nations?
- It is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation.
- It was established in August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
- Its chairmanship rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
- ASEAN countries have a total population of 650 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 2.8 trillion. It is India’s 4th largest trading partner with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.
- ASEAN brings together ten Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – into one organisation.
What are the Key Highlights?
- The SOM reviewed the ASEAN-India strategic partnership and its future direction.
- The leaders made their assessment on the progress of cooperation under three pillars of Partnership – Political-Security, Economic and Socio-Cultural.
- The meeting deliberated on the steps for further implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025).
- The two sides exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest including the Covid-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recovery.
- Underlining the India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, emphasized the implementation of the ASEAN-India Joint Statement on Cooperation on ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) to strengthen the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.
- The ASEAN side appreciated India’s support to ASEAN and ASEAN-led architecture in the region.
How has Been the ASEAN-India Relations?
- ASEAN, a 10-nation grouping, is considered one of the most influential groupings in Southeast Asia.
- India and several other countries, including the US, China, Japan and Australia, are its dialogue partners.
- The ASEAN-India dialogue relations started with the establishment of a sectoral partnership in 1992.
- This graduated to full dialogue partnership in December 1995 and summit-level partnership in 2002.
- Traditionally the basis of India-ASEAN ties has been trade and people-to-people ties due to shared historical and cultural roots, a more recent and urgent area of convergence has been balancing China’s rise.
- Both India and ASEAN aim to establish a rules-based security architecture for peaceful development in the region, in contrast to China’s aggressive policies.
- Areas of Cooperation:
- Economic Cooperation:
- ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner.
- India signed FTA (Free Trade Agreement) in goods in 2009 and an FTA in services and investments in 2014 with ASEAN.
- India has a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with various countries of the ASEAN region which has resulted in concessional trade and a rise in investments.
- Political Cooperation:
- ASEAN-India Centre (AIC) was established to undertake policy research, advocacy and networking activities with organizations and think-tanks in India and ASEAN.
- Financial Assistance:
- India provides financial assistance to the ASEAN nations through various mechanism like ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund and ASEAN-India Green Fund.
- India has been undertaking several connectivity projects like India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral (IMT) Highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Project.
- India is also trying to establish a Maritime Transportation Agreement with ASEAN and also Plans for a Railway link between New Delhi in India to Hanoi in Vietnam.
- Socio-Cultural Cooperation:
- Programmes to boost People-to-People Interaction with ASEAN are organized, such as inviting ASEAN students to India, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, etc.
- Defence Cooperation:
- Joint Naval and Military exercises are conducted between India and most ASEAN countries.
- Vietnam has traditionally been a close friend on defense issues, Singapore is also an equally important partner.
- Economic Cooperation:
What is the Significance of ASEAN for India?
- India needs a close diplomatic relationship with ASEAN nations both for economic and security reasons.
- Connectivity with the ASEAN nations can allow India to improve its presence in the region.
- These connectivity projects keep Northeast India at the centre, ensuring the economic growth of the northeastern states.
- Improved trade ties with the ASEAN nations would mean a counter to China’s presence in the region and economic growth and development for India.
- ASEAN occupies a centralised position in the rules-based security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, which is vital for India since most of its trade is dependent on maritime security.
- Collaboration with the ASEAN nations is necessary to counter insurgency in the Northeast, combat terrorism, tax evasions etc.
- With China having three times more commercial flights than India to Southeast Asia, improving air connectivity between India and ASEAN countries should also be high on the agenda.
- India can become the military partner after the Atma Nirbar Bharat, Make in India projects are successfully implemented.
- There is need to expand the Concept of QUAD to include the ASEAN countries and become a QUAD+ arrangement.
- Vietnam and Indonesia have expressed a positive note on QUAD in the region.
- Tourism can be encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides.