Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

Geopolitics follows the geoeconomics and not vice-versa


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : international relations


  • Over the recent years India’s manoeuvres in indo-pacific have highlighted the India’s geopolitical and ambitions. Pandemic and Chinese incursion in Ladakh forced India to move fast to achieve its geopolitical ends. However missing link in India’s endeavour is geoeconomics.

What is mean by geopolitics and geo-economics?

  • Geopolitics: is defined as the struggle over the control of geographical entities with an international and global dimension, and the use of such geographical entities for political advantage.
  • Geo-economics: is defined as the combination of economic and geographic factors relating to international trade and a governmental policy guided by geoeconomics.
  • Geopolitics and geoeconomics are sometimes used interchangeably.

What is the strategy to pursue geopolitical goals in indo-pacific?

  • India has managed to emerge as a major pivot of the global Indo-Pacific grand strategic imagination.
  • Avoided the temptations to militarise/securitise the Quad (Australia, Japan, India and the United States).
  • Which has ensured that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states do not feel uneasy by the ever-increasing balance of power articulations in the Indo-Pacific

geoeconomicsWhat is the missing link in India’s geopolitical strategy?

  • The missing link in geoeconomics is India’s decision to take to the Indo-Pacific and Quad in a big way.
  • While unwilling to join two of the region’s key multilateral trading agreements goes to show that geoeconomics and geopolitics are imagined and pursued parallelly in New Delhi, not as complimenting each other.
  • The most recent example is India’s refusal to join the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) while deciding to join the three other pillars of the IPEF supply chains, tax and anti-corruption, and clean energy.

India also withdrew from ASEAN led RCEP.

Is the lack of geoeconomic bad for foreign policy?

  • The absence of the world’s fifth largest economy from various regional trading platforms will invariably boost China’s geo-economic hegemony in Asia.
  • Staying out of IPEF is a bad idea is because for India, it would be hard to integrate itself into the regional and global supply chains without being a part of important regional multilateral trading agreements.
  • We have no option but to address some of the deeper challenges plaguing the investment and business environment in India.
  • If India is indeed serious about its maritime grand strategy, which cannot be solely military in nature, it needs to get the states in the region to create economic stakes in India (something China has done cleverly and consistently) and vice-versa.
  • Another impact of India’s hesitation about joining regional multilateral trading arrangements is its potential regional economic isolation. The less India engages with the region economically, and the more China does so, and given the Sino-Indian rivalry, India might risk getting economically isolated in the broader region.

Geo-economics: is defined as the combination of economic and geographic factors relating to international trade and a governmental policy guided by geoeconomics. Geopolitics and geoeconomics are sometimes used interchangeably.What can be done?

  • New Delhi should: rethink its geoeconomic choices if it is serious about enhancing its geopolitical influence in the region. Given that India has not closed the door on the trade pillar of the IPEF, we have an opportunity to rethink our position.
  • India should: also rethink its decision not to join the RECP and seek to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) from which the U.S. walked out and China is seeking to join.
  • India should: also proactively lobby to become a part of the Minerals Security Partnership, the U.S.-led 11-member grouping to secure supply chains of critical minerals.


  • In the words of external affairs minister Dr. Jaishankar,” geopolitics follows the geoeconomics and not vice-versa”. Geoeconomics is inclusive of geoeconomics. India should integrate itself in multilateral trading platforms and leverage its big market to bargain the best deal for itself.

Mains question

Q. Indias pursuit of geopolitics is futile without inclusion of geoeconomics. Comment.

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