Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

Sep, 04, 2018

[pib] 6th East Asia Summit and 15th India-ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting, Singapore


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: Importance of India-ASEAN Trade



  1. Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu attended the 6th East Asia Summit- Economic Ministers’ Meeting (EAS-EMM) and 15th India-ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) in Singapore.
  2. Singapore is currently holding the Chair of ASEAN.

Importance of the meet

  1. ASEAN has emerged as the second largest trade partner of India in 2017-18 with bilateral trade valued at USD 81.33 billion, comprising 10.58% of India’s total trade with the world.
  2. The ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) presented their recommendations to the forum  to sustain the momentum of trade and investment in the region.
  3. Issues related to promoting connectivity, collaboration on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development, blue economy, healthcare, and tourism as well as women and youth economic empowerment were discussed.

About East Asia Summit

  1. Established in 2005, EAS allows the principal players in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss issues of common interest and concern, in an open and transparent manner, at the highest level.
  2. The membership of EAS consists of ten ASEAN Member States (i.e. Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam), Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the USA.
  3. EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.
  4. The six priority areas of EAS are – Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. India endorses regional collaboration in all six priority areas.
  5. Following the 12th EAS in November 2017 in Manila, Philippines and following the adoption of the Manila Plan of Action for Maritime Cooperation.
  6. In 2009, the EAS endorsed the proposal for the revival of Nalanda University by former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
Aug, 07, 2018

[pib] Indo - Thailand Joint Exercise Maitree 2018


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Maitree

Mains level:  Not Much


Exercise Maitree

1. It is a joint military exercise between the Indian Army and Royal Thai Army which will be conducted from 06 to 19 August 2018 in Thailand.
2. It is a platoon level exercise which comprises of infantry component.
3. The exercise will emphasize to hone the tactical and technical skills in joint counterinsurgency and counter-terrorist operations in the rural and urban scenario under UN mandate.
4. Due emphasis will be laid on increasing interoperability between forces from both countries which is crucial for the success of any joint operation.
5. Both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenario.

Jun, 12, 2018

Rise in India-ASEAN naval games


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, Java sea, CORPAT, Malabar exercise, coast of Guam, Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC)

Mains level: India’s increasing cooperation with ASEAN and need of it to counter China


Naval games with ASEAN

  1. The Navies of India and Indonesia will hold their first bilateral exercise in the Java Sea
  2. India will stage a new trilateral exercise with Thailand and Singapore soon
  3. India is instituting a series of bilateral and multilateral naval exercises with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries
  4. This is being done as part of the increasing military-to-military cooperation
  5. India is also looking at a new multilateral exercise with ASEAN

Increasing cooperation

  1. The bilateral with Indonesia is in addition to the Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) that the two sides conduct
  2. The bilateral with Indonesia will be held after the conclusion of the Malabar trilateral naval war games between India, Japan and the U.S. which is underway off the coast of Guam
  3. Two of the ships participating in Malabar will head to the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest multilateral exercise, hosted by the U.S. biennially off the Hawaii islands
Jun, 04, 2018

At Changi base, a naval honour for PM Modi


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Changi Naval Base, INS Satpura

Mains level: India’s partnerships with various nations in Indian and Pacific ocean regions to counter Chinese growing footprints


Visit to Changi base

  1. PM Modi visited the Changi Naval Base in Singapore
  2. He also interacted with the officers and sailors on board the Indian Navy’s Shivalik class stealth frigate INS Satpura

Importance of the visit

  1. India and Singapore have signed implementation agreement between their Navies concerning mutual coordination, logistics and services support for naval ships, submarines and naval aircraft (including ship-borne aviation assets) visits
Mar, 09, 2018

[op-ed snap] The North East is key for India’s ties with Asean


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: Geography of the North-East India, particulars of the trilateral highway, etc.

Mains level: Importance of the North-East India and development projects needed in the region.


India and ASEAN relationship

  1. Ever since India transformed its “Look East” policy to “Act East”, there have been continuous efforts to make this relationship result oriented and practical
  2. In the absence of political differences, trade and investments should be the main drivers of the relationship, but India and Asean are struggling to push bilateral trade to the agreed target of $100 billion
  3. How can it be improved: This could be helped by improving connectivity(through land, sea and air) which will cut down costs of movement of goods and services

Connectivity through tri-lateral highway: The importance of the North-East India

  1. Among the connectivity projects already envisaged is a four-lane trilateral highway linking India (Moreh in Manipur) with Mae Sot (Thailand) via Myanmar which will be expanded to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam
  2. This highway can only be sustained through movement of goods and economic activity along the route through Myanmar and
  3. Hence, the growing importance of our North-East

It is essential to focus on development and connectivity in India’s North-East itself

  1. It can be done with new road and rail links, opening up multi modal transport, including river navigation, and setting up industrial corridors and economic activities like haats or local markets, with emphasis on agriculture, horticulture, handlooms, handicrafts and processed food
  2. This will allow India to export its produce through this link rather than become a net importer of cheap Chinese goods

What about sea connectivity?

  1. Sea connectivity from India to Asean will be helped by the Kaladan multi-modal transport project
  2. It will link Kolkata to Sittwe port in Myanmar, as also Mizoram by the river and land route

Budget for North-East development

  1. India plans to spend Rs45,000 crore for the development of the region bordering China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar

Recent development projects in the NE

  1. Some recent decisions to enhance connectivity of the North-East include
    (1) a 4,000-km long ring road connecting the states; expediting railway projects connecting all state capitals by 2020, and extending to 15 new destinations;
    (2) border last-mile rail connectivity with Myanmar and restoring rail connectivity with Bangladesh
  2. Twenty port townships are to be developed along the Brahmaputra and Barak river systems to enhance intra-regional connectivity
  3. Government has also proposed the augmentation of air connectivity to and from the region, which will help business ties with the Asean
  4. Connectivity is also being upgraded in the border areas for strategic purposes
  5. This will also aid in improving law and order in the region and boost the underutilized tourism potential

Japan as a major partner

  1. Japan has emerged as a major partner in our efforts for the development of the North-East and connectivity to Asean
  2. The “Japan India Act East Forum” has been set up
  3. It will seek synergies between India’s Act East policy and Japan’s Partnership for Quality Infrastructure located in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and link with Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”

The way forward

  1. Transformational policies and supportive governments in these states could enable the government at the centre to roll out development schemes and infrastructure projects quickly
    (as has been the case with Assam)
Feb, 28, 2018

India, Vietnam set to ink nuclear energy pact, boost defence ties


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: South China Sea, Belt and Road Initiative

Mains level: India’s relationship with ASEAN countries


Vietnam President’s India visit

  1. Strategic partners India and Vietnam are to boost defense ties and sign pacts on civil nuclear cooperation and port development during a visit by Vietnamese President
  2. There will be pact for development of a port in the Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam
  3. The two countries will also exchange views on developments in the South China Sea where Vietnam and some other South-East Asian nations are locked in a maritime dispute with China
  4. Of the 26 countries that Vietnam has a strategic partnership with, the level of the strategic partnership with India is the highest

Importance of visit

  1. The visit comes at a time when India is warily watching China make inroads into its neighborhood
  2. China has increased naval presence as well as stepped-up infrastructure profile in countries like the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka as part of its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative


  1. India views South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region as its traditional sphere of influence while China sees the South China Sea as its backyard
  2. In the past, China has objected to India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd exploring for oil in blocks off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea
Feb, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] Building maritime capacity in South-East Asia


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, Vientiane Vision, SIMBEX, Sambandh Initiative, Quad

Mains level: India’s Act East policy and modifications required in it


ASEAN’s rising importance

  1. ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has been on a roll since January
  2. In the span of slightly over a month, the 10-member regional bloc participated in four major events: the commemorative summit with India, Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat, Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat, and an informal defense ministers’ meeting with China

Problems being faced by ASEAN

  1. Asean is certainly more preoccupied with the scourge of extremist violence and terrorism, especially following the Marawi debacle (ISIS had besieged city of Marawi in the Philippines)
  2. It is also coping with the evidently intensifying great power rivalries
  3. There are concerns over the persistent militarization activities in the disputed waters

ASEAN’s idea of inclusivity

  1. ASEAN believes enmeshing all ASEAN and extra-regional players by giving each a veritable stake in regional peace and stability
  2. This norm works well when it comes to maritime security capacity-building in South-East Asia
  3. Maintaining good order at sea—safeguarding the maritime commons and ensuring freedom of navigation—is everyone’s responsibility, both coastal and user states
  4. The Malacca Straits patrols and the latest Sulu-Celebes Seas trilateral cooperative arrangements show that ASEAN governments regard policing the waters as first and foremost the primary responsibility of coastal states
  5. Extra-regional actors are welcome to offer fiscal, technical and training aid

Extra-regional players in the region

  1. The US is a longstanding player, elevating its role with the recent freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea
  2. Japan trails the US via a structured programme known as the Vientiane Vision

Prospects for India

  1. India has more room to grow its involvement
  2. Many ASEAN governments have long viewed New Delhi as a counterweight to China
  3. What New Delhi has in South-East Asia is what Beijing has only in the past decade started doing and not yet accomplished in the Indian Ocean
  4. Indian maritime forces have been conducting regular deployments east of the Malacca Straits through a set of bilateral maritime security and naval relations
  5. They have accumulated geographical familiarity and knowledge over many decades

What more can be done?

  1. Creating more institutionalized patterns of joint training and exercises along the lines of the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX), involving navies and coastguards
  2. The latest Sambandh Initiative and Mobile Training Team programme are targeted at the smaller Indian Ocean neighbors as part of the overall response to China’s increasing presence in the region
  3. It might be worthwhile extending these programmes to South-East Asia
  4. A more structured programme aimed at South and South-East Asia along the lines of Australia’s Pacific patrol boat programme could be feasible instead of credit extension
  5. India could also leverage its space technology strengths, especially remote-sensing capabilities for maritime domain awareness

Way forward

  1. It may reap greater benefits for these extra-regional powers to coordinate with each other instead of disparate national approaches to assist South-East Asia’s maritime security capacity-building, which could lead to duplication and overlap of efforts
  2. The Quad may serve as such a platform, short of being a formal alliance, to facilitate such efforts
Jan, 31, 2018

[op-ed snap] The balancing act: ASEAN

Image Source


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, RCEP, etc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses importance of India and the ASEAN for each other.


Outcome of the recent Indo-ASEAN summit

  1. The principal gain of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit is to provide ample clarity on what their partnership has achieved and where it should move in the future
  2. A good way to begin is to listen to ASEAN voices
  3. India is important to ASEAN and huge scope exists to develop cooperation with it

Importance of the recent summit

  1. Recent developments in the Indo-Pacific region have lent special significance to the summit
  2. China’s economic progress is welcomed, with every ASEAN nation keen to derive optimal benefit from it
  3. But Beijing’s assertive diplomacy, strategic postures and coercive action in the South China Sea have combined to sour the environment
  4. This mix has impelled ASEAN states to expect and encourage India to enhance its role as a balancer in the region

Importance from India’s point of view

  1. For India, ASEAN is of vital importance both for strategic and economic considerations
  2. India seeks to redefine the contours of its neighbourhood
  3. Constraints and setbacks in South Asia and opportunities in Southeast Asia have led it to blur the traditional distinction between ‘immediate neighbourhood’ and ‘extended neighbourhood’
  4. Friendly South Asians and welcoming Southeast Asians now constitute our new neighbourhood, with an eastward tilt

On political and security cooperation

  1. Freedom of navigation and overflight “in the region” is of the highest importance
  2. How the two sides deepen maritime cooperation and to what extent it is extended to practical collaboration among the navies of major ASEAN states and India will be watched closely
  3. ASEAN also wants India’s support to ASEAN efforts to obtain a legally binding Code of Conduct with China in the South China Sea

On trade and economic cooperation 

  1. Full utilisation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area and “the swift conclusion” of a modern, comprehensive and high quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are the next steps
  2. Of course, the RCEP should be “mutually beneficial”, but note that the adjective “balanced”, preferred by India, is missing from the text
  3. India does not have the option to stay out of the RCEP, but it needs ASEAN’s support to secure an acceptable bargain. Tough negotiations lie ahead
Jan, 27, 2018

[op-ed snap] Taking ASEAN to the bank

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, RCEP, CLMV countries

Mains level: India’s Act East policy


Inviting ASEAN leaders at Republic Day

  1. Gesture of inviting leaders of 10 ASEAN nation as guests of honor at the Republic Day is a manifestation of our engagement with South East Asia
  2. It will emphasize “Shared Values Common Destiny”, a theme slightly at variance with the “Shared Values in a Fractured World”, at Davos

The India-ASEAN strategic partnership

  1. The theme of the retreat of the India-ASEAN summit is maritime security
  2. ASEAN is today at the center of the Indo-Pacific as a strategic concept
  3. ASEAN sees India more clearly as a strategic partner
  4. It will want to engage India in all aspects — socio-cultural, political and economic

RCEP without India unlikely

  1. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) launched in Phnom Penh in 2012 still awaits conclusion
  2. This is because FTA partners of ASEAN besides India — China, Japan, ROK, Australia and New Zealand — have varied interests
  3. India wants to match access for goods with access to services

Infrastructure need of ASEAN

  1. ASEAN wants to see more of India in infrastructure development
  2. There is great demand in the ASEAN countries for infrastructure and they are looking for FDI and funding options
  3. India has a $1-billion credit facility for developing infrastructure and other projects in ASEAN countries
  4. There is also a Rs 500-crore Project Development Facility for CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Mynmar, Vietnam) countries under the commerce ministry
  5. While the development funds are well utilized, the line of credit (LOC) is hardly touched
  6. India needs to study why the LOCs are underutilized

Way forward

  1. The ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity has several options, including in the maritime sector, for India to pursue in conjunction with friends in the region
  2. India needs to use the strategic space in economic terms to enhance its partnership with ASEAN
Jan, 27, 2018

Delhi Declaration calls for joint fight against terror


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, Delhi Declaration

Mains level: Cooperation between India-ASEAN in various sectors


ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit

  1. It was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of sectoral dialogue between India and ASEAN
  2. Counter-terrorism, identity security, military cooperation, and bilateral financial support were discussed in official level talks with leaders from ASEAN countries

Delhi Declaration

  1. A joint statement titled Delhi Declaration was issued after the plenary session
  2. It supported a common approach to counter terrorism by focusing on the presence of the Islamic State and other forms of radicalism in the region


Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  1. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries
  2. It promotes Pan-Asianism and intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational and socio-cultural integration amongst its members and other Asian countries
  3. It members are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam
  4. ASEAN shares land and maritime borders with India, China
  5. ASEAN is an official United Nations Observer
Jan, 25, 2018

[op-ed snap] The arc to Southeast Asia

Image Source


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: BIMSTEC, trilateral highway, etc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses some concerns related to India-ASEAN relationship. It also discusses some suggestions for encouraging the relations between the two.


Why is ASEAN in news?

  1. India will host heads of state or government of all 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the Republic Day celebrations
  2. Why important: The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership

Disillusionment on both sides

  1. The ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India expects more than possible
  2. India expectations regarding a more robust support for its regional outreach too have not been met by the ASEAN
  3. Indian government’s ‘Act East’ policy is aimed at enhancing India’s strategic profile in East and Southeast Asia, India’s main focus remains on South Asia and the Indian Ocean region
  4. There has been a shift in emphasis, of course, with India moving away from the SAARC to BIMSTEC and asserting its centrality in the evolving geography of the Indo-Pacific

Prioritizing of some countries by India

  1. Due to strategic importance of the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar and Thailand have emerged as key players in its southeastern outreach
  2. The hope is to use these nations as a bridge to ASEAN
  3. The temptation to prioritise these countries over others in ASEAN may also prevent others from looking at India as a regional stakeholder


  1. It is important for India and ASEAN to chart out a more operational agenda for future cooperation
  2. The three Cs of commerce, connectivity and culture have been highlighted but a more granular perspective is needed in terms of a forging a forward-looking approach
  3. There is no getting away from enhancing trade and economic linkages between India and ASEAN
    Focus on the delivery of committed projects
  4. Instead of talking about ASEAN-wide connectivity projects, India needs to focus on more effective delivery of projects it is already committed to
  5. In this context, prompt completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is very important
  6. The plan is to extend this highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in an attempt to project India’s role in the emerging transportation architecture
    Air connectivity
  7. 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
    Cultural connect
  8. The cultural connect between the two needs strengthening
  9. While India offers scholarships to students from ASEAN states to study at Nalanda University, this initiative should be extended to the IITs and the IIMs
  10. Tourism too can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides
Dec, 23, 2017

RCEP: India hardens stand ahead of ASEAN summit


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: Particulars of the RCEP

Mains level: Concerns affecting India’s interests


Sign of slowing down the efforts for an FTA

  1. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has taken a strong stand that the country should restrain itself from concluding any such pact from which it would not gain in the medium term
  2. The RCEP is a proposed mega-regional FTA involving the 10 member countries of ASEAN and its six FTA partners including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand

Report on ‘trade with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  1. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, in its report, has called for observance of due restraint and not conclude trade arrangements which are not to our medium term advantage
  2. The report is significant coming ahead of the ASEAN-India commemorative summit to be held on January 25
  3. At the summit the issue of the long-delayed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will likely take centre stage

Possible reasons behind these concerns

  1. The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement was inked and enforced from January 1, 2010
  2. After that India’s goods trade deficit with ASEAN widened from $4.98 billion in 2010-11 to $14.75 billion in 2015-16, and then narrowed to $9.56 billion in 2016-17
  3. The huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India


Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Dec, 13, 2017

Govt, ASEAN in talks to take IMT highway up to Vietnam

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway, ASEAN

Mains level: Various regional connectivity agreements involving India and their current status


IMT highway to be extended

  1. The government is in talks with ASEAN countries to extend the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway up to Vietnam
  2. India and ASEAN countries are holding consultations on the extension of the 1,360 km IMT highway — from Moreh in India to Mae-Sot in Thailand — to Laos, Cambodia and to Vietnam

Other such agreements

  1. Another area on which the government is working to connect India with South East Asia is the IMT Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA)
  2. India, Myanmar and Thailand in 2014 commenced negotiations for finalising and implementing the IMT Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA)

Benefits of connectivity

  1. Connectivity can generate annually, an estimated USD 70 billion in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025
  2. Connecting India with the Southeastern countries through a network of road will create jobs, market for crops grown in hilly regions of the Northeast which will also help growers in getting better price for their produce


Know about ASEAN here

Nov, 17, 2017

[op-ed snap] The ASEAN outreach

Image Source


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
Nov, 15, 2017

Post-Doklam, India asserts itself in China’s backyard

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, East Asia summit, Doklam issue, South China Sea, UN laws of the seas (UNCLOS)

Mains level: India’s rising stature in world affairs


Convergence of interests with the new quadrilateral grouping

  1. Displaying convergence of interests with the new quadrilateral grouping with U.S., Japan, and Australia, India reached out to China’s backyard
  2. It addressed an array of issues ranging from the tension in the Korean peninsula to freedom of navigation and sought a crackdown on chemical weapons during the ASEAN and the East Asia summits

India emerges as a more dependable partner for South-East Asia

  1. Following the Doklam faceoff with China, India has emerged as a more dependable partner for South-East Asia
  2. South-East Asian countries expect New Delhi to be assertive with Beijing
  3. Outcome of the Doklam crisis has shown that India has reached a stage where it can be a resilient strategic and defense partner for them
  4. Southeast Asian region had been facing uncertainties following the exit of President Barack Obama as he took visible interest in the region

Fundamental change in India’s foreign affairs

  1. India is now embracing the big-ticket issues of East Asia like the North Korean nuclear crisis as well
  2. PM Modi shared concerns of DPRK’s pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons and called for complete verification and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula
  3. He also said that North Korea’s proliferation links must be investigated and the parties who have supported these unlawful programmes must be made accountable
  4. Taking up of North Korean threats was part of a new Indian set of concerns that also covers major global issues like terrorism by the Islamic State and its capability to inflict mass casualties, and tensions in the South China Sea that concern the world as well as India

India’s stand on the South China Sea

  1. India remains concerned about China’s man-made structures in the South China Sea that are likely to create navigational problems and international friction
  2. The situation in the South China Sea also featured in the statement of PM Modi in the ASEAN who asked for upholding of the ‘rules-based regional security architecture’, an expression often described to refer to China’s opposition to adhere to the UN laws of the seas (UNCLOS)

India wants total ban on chemical weapons

  1. India also pushed for a total ban on chemical weapons in the region and for an end to terrorist financing
  2. The agreements on terror financing, chemical weapons and de-radicalization adopted at the East Asia Summit will help the region cope with the threat of terrorism effectively in future
Nov, 14, 2017

India, Philippines ink deals on defence, agriculture


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Mains level: The article talks about the deals signed by India and Philippines



  1. The PM Modi’s visit to the Philippines is the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM to this Southeast Asian nation in 36 years after the visit of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited the Philippines in 2007 for the ASEAN summit
  2. Four agreements were signed by the two countries on the sidelines of this visit

Agreements signed between the two countries

  1. Four agreements were signed between the two countries, which covered areas of defense, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and a tie-up between think-tanks
  2. The Philippines is also committed to improving the public health system and wants Indian infrastructure companies to pitch in his flagship “build, build and build programme
  3. The idea is to have private and public enterprises to cooperate in the defense sector, including on the off-shore patrolling vessels

Other highlights of the visit

  1. The Indian PM contributed two Indian rice seed varieties to the gene bank of the international rice research center in the Philippines which he said is working towards mitigating global poverty and hunger by improving the cultivation of the key grain
  2. He also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and interacted with several Indian scientists working there
  3. A number of scientists at IRRI briefed the PM on flood-tolerant rice varieties which, they said, can withstand 14-18 days of submergence and provide 1-3 tonnes more yield per hectare in flood-affected areas
Mar, 23, 2016

India marks big shift in trade policy

  1. What? India has outlined higher level of commitment to liberalize investment and services for the members of RCEP
  2. This marks a significant shift in its trade policy & could become a template for future bilateral treaties
  3. India has accepted ratchet and most-favoured nation-forward (MFN-forward) clauses
  4. But India will, in turn, impose conditions on RCEP members for accepting these clauses
  5. However, India has not made any commitments on multi-brand retail nor in according national treatment before investors set up shop in the country
Mar, 03, 2016

ASEAN Plus Multinational Field Training Exercise ‘Ex Force 18’

  1. News: Multinational Field Training Exercise (FTX) – Exercise FORCE 18, involving ASEAN Plus countries commenced at Pune
  2. Context: This is the largest Ground Forces Exercise ever conducted on Indian soil and would be conducted from 02 to 08 March 2016
  3. Theme: ‘Humanitarian Mine Action’ and ‘Peacekeeping Operations’
  4. First phase: 28 foreign trainers were trained by Indian Army, these trainers will form the training backbone for the conduct of ‘Exercise FORCE 18’
  5. Foreign participants witnessed martial skills performed by the Indian Army, including Drill by soldiers from the Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre
Nov, 23, 2015

ASEAN to ease travel, mobility of labour

The leaders endorsed “ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together,” which charts the path for community building over the next 10 years.

  1. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was proclaimed a community through a declaration signed by the ASEAN leaders at its 27th Summit.
  2. The focus of ASEAN 2025 will be on strengthening the community on political, economic and socio-cultural fronts.
  3. While the Political-Security Community aims at maintaining the association’s centrality in regional mechanisms.
  4. The Socio-Cultural Community will focus on promoting a high quality life and equitable access to opportunities for all.
  5. The ASEAN Economic Community will focus on business-friendly, trade-facilitative and market-driven economy to inspire investor confidence.
Nov, 23, 2015

Give no shelter to terrorists: PM Modi

  1. Prime Minister says the world is coming together to use “force” to fight the menace.
  2. PM Narendra Modi suggested a multi-pronged approach for combating international terrorism.
  3. Making an intervention at the East Asia Summit (EAS).
  4. He emphasised the need for building a new global resolve and new strategies for combating terrorism, without balancing them against political considerations.
  5. He said, terror was the biggest problem faced by the world today and stressed the need for delinking religion from terror.
Nov, 21, 2015

ASEAN-India Summit: Terrorism, trade, sea dispute to be top agenda

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is India’s fourth largest trading partner.

  1. Terrorism, trade and South China Sea dispute are expected to dominate discussions at the 13th ASEAN-India Summit
  2. The 10 member grouping will review the new Plan of Action (2016-2020).
  3. To further enhance ASEAN-India cooperation along politico- security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.
  4. India and ASEAN have 30 dialogue mechanisms including a Summit and 7 Ministerial meetings with various ministries.
  5. Trade between India and ASEAN stood at USD 76.52 billion in 2014-15.
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