Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

Time for an Asian Century


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Challenges in securing RCEP

Asian centrality

  • China’s response is a ‘dual circulation’ strategy for self-reliance and military-technological prowess to surpass the U.S.
  • The global governance role of the U.S. is already reduced.
  • The U.S. now exercises power with others, not over them.
  • Despite its military ‘pivot’ to Asia, the U.S. needs India in the Quad, to counterbalance the spread of China’s influence through land-based trade links.
  • India, like others in the Quad, has not targeted China and also has deeper security ties with Russia.
  • With the ASEAN ‘code of conduct’ in the South China Sea, both the security and prosperity pillars of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific construct will be adversely impacted.
  • Leveraging proven digital prowess to complement the infrastructure of China’s Belt and Road Initiative will win friends as countries value multi-polarity.

Atmanirbhar Bharat and Challenges

  • ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ will leverage endogenous technological strength, data and population.
  • With the Rafale aircraft purchase, India has recognised that there will be no technology transfer for capital equipment.
  • Military Theatre Commands should be tasked with border defence giving the offensive role to cyber, missile and special forces based on endogenous capacity, effectively linking economic and military strength.
  • The overriding priority should be infrastructure including electricity and fibre optic connectivity; self-reliance in semiconductors, electric batteries and solar panels; and skill development.


There are compelling geopolitical and economic reasons for shaping the building blocks of the Asia-led order, which is not yet China-led, to secure an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, and place in the emerging triumvirate.

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