In News: India and ASEAN countries gave a new vigour to their ties by establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership at the 19th ASEAN-India Summit in Cambodia. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations and is, therefore, being celebrated as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year.
- India places ASEAN as an important pillar of regional, multilateral global order and supports ASEAN centrality in the evolving architecture in the Indo-Pacific.
- The India-ASEAN joint statement acknowledges deep civilisational linkages, maritime connectivity, and cross-cultural exchanges between the two geographies
- The current focus is on enhancing cooperation in the digital economy, smart agriculture, city-to-city partnerships and strengthening healthcare by increasing collaboration in public health, including in areas of research and development and public health emergency.
- Act East Policy 2014 has ASEAN as its core focus and India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992.
- Mission to ASEAN 2015 with a dedicated Ambassador to strengthen engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-centric processes
- Delhi Dialogue hosted by India annually, traditionally inaugurated jointly by India and ASEAN at the Foreign Minister’s level, serves as the main Track 1.5 mechanism for our engagement. 12th edition is planned for 2022.
- ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund of $50 million to support implementation of the ASEAN-India Plans of Action for capacity building initiatives.
- ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner
- India’s trade with ASEAN stands at US$ 81.33 billion, which is approx. 10.6% of India’s overall trade.
- India’s export to ASEAN stands at 11.28% of our total exports
- ASEAN accounting for approximately 18.28% of investment flows into India since 2000.
- The ASEAN-India Free Trade Area has been completed in 2015
- ASEAN India Business Council (AIBC) was set up in 2003 for private sector engagement.
- Students Exchange Programme, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, Participation of ASEAN students in the National Children’s Science Congress, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, etc
- 2nd edition of the ASEAN-India Workshop on Blue Economy, jointly hosted with the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, was held on 18 July 2018 in New Delhi.
Challenges to the partnership:
- Russia-Ukraine war has aggravated the tension between China and US with China as primary economic partner and the US as the primary security guarantor.
- A divided house:
- ASEAN grouping remains fractured in its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on managing the US-China contestation, and in dealing with the military junta in Myanmar and China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
- ASEAN will lose its relevance if it continues to be a divided house, unable to forge consensus on critical regional and global issues.
- Threat to ASEAN’s centrality:
- In order to isolate and put pressure on the Myanmarese junta, Washington has placed sanctions on the on the regime as well reached out to the opposition National Unity Government.
- Russia and China have been trying to do the opposite and even supplying weapons to the junta.
- In the midst of this, ASEAN’s response has been confusing and muddled.
- The initiative it seems is with outsiders rather than with the region and that is not a great message about ASEAN centrality.
- Chinese dominance:
- China’s massive economic footprint in the region gives Beijing a distinct advantage.
- China’s is the primary trading partner of the region with bilateral trade of around $880 billion.
- With the US-China confrontation and setback of Covid-19 pandemic, China is now seeking to revive the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and has announced several new infrastructures projects in Southeast Asia.
- Beijing has also announced negotiations on ASEAN-China Free Trade Area “Version 3.0.”
- India will have to up its game significantly in order to remain relevant in a part of the world that is viewed as critical to the future stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.
- Trade and connectivity will be critical in order to enhance its profile in the ASEAN region.
- PM Modi announced the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) in 2019, aimed at forging partnerships to create a safe, secure, stable, prosperous and sustainable maritime domain with maritime ecology; maritime security; marine resources; capacity building and resource sharing.
- India has also hosted the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (SAIFMM)2 in June 2022.
- ASEAN centrality will have no meaning with a fractured region unable to come to terms with the changing realities around its periphery.
- With a fragmented ASEAN, Indo-Pacific will continue to exude the instability and tensions that the world is trying to come to grips with now.
- This is the age of minilaterals and India should not be shy of exploring them even In Southeast Asia as ASEAN will continue to struggle with its internal cohesion for the foreseeable future.
Source: Orf Online