Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

[op-ed snap] The ASEAN outreachop-ed snap

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN

Mains level: These topics are specially mentioned in the mains syllabus



  1. The article talks about the importance of relationship between India and ASEAN

Important meetings attended by the Indian Prime Minister

  1. The Philippines has been the centre of attraction for the last few days with Manila hosting
    (1) the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India
    (2) East Asia summits as well as special celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of ASEAN
    (3) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders’ meeting
    (4) the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit
  2. Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined these meetings
  3. And underscored India’s commitment to deepening ties with the ASEAN member states and the wider Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East’ policy

Importance of the Indo-Pacific region

  1. The Indo-Pacific region is now central to global politics and economics and recent days have merely reinforced the trends that have been emerging for some time
  2. China is the most important player in the region
  3. And as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear in his speech at the recent Communist Party Congress, Beijing is now more confident than ever of projecting regional and global power
  4. In this, China has had the good fortune of having an administration in the U.S. that lacks seriousness of purpose and is unable to communicate effectively its priorities for the region
  5. Opportunity for India: This makes this period of transition very significant for countries like India that have a stake in the long-term stability of the region
  6. As China’s profile grows, and the U.S. continues to be unsure of its security commitments, there is a new opportunity for India in the region

Symbolic move by India

  1. In a symbolic move, all 10 ASEAN heads of state have been invited to be guests of honour for next year’s Republic Day function

Different strategy adopted by India

  1. On the one hand, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being resurrected without the U.S.
  2. And on the other, the idea of an Indo-Pacific quadrilateral involving Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. is back
  3. Unlike in the past, India is no longer diffident about engaging with other regional players if it helps to further Indian interests in maintaining a stable balance of power in region

Importance of ASEAN for India

  1. ASEAN is currently India’s fourth largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade
  2. India is ASEAN’s seventh largest trading partner
  3. India’s service-oriented economy perfectly complements the manufacturing-based economies of ASEAN countries
  4. There is, however, considerable scope for further growth

The way forward

  1. India needs to do a more convincing job as a beneficial strategic partner of ASEAN by boosting its domestic economic reforms agenda, enhancing connectivity within the region, and increasing its presence in regional institutions
  2. The ASEAN nations should be clearer and more specific in their expectations from New Delhi and nudge India for a deeper, more broad-based engagement
  3. There is much at stake for both sides


Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN)

  1. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising ten Southeast Asian states which promotes Pan-Asianism and intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, military, educational and cultural integration amongst its members and Asian states
  2. Since its formation on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the organisation’s membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam
  3. Its principal aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, and sociocultural evolution among its members, alongside the protection of regional stability and the provision of a mechanism for member countries to resolve differences peacefully
  4. ASEAN is an official United Nations Observer
  5. Communication by members across nations takes place in English

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