Headline : ASEAN key to Act East plan, says Modi
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Bangkok to co-chair the 16th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India Summit.
- He is also scheduled to attend the 14th East Asia Summit.
- He will also participate in the third Summit meeting of nations negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
- PM Modi said that ASEAN region is not just an important gateway to the Indian Ocean region, but is also civilisationally very close to India.
- He noted that ASEAN is one of the most economically and politically dynamic regions of the world today. Engagement with ASEAN remains a critical element for India’s Act East Policy and strategy.
- ASEAN has welcomed India’s policy on more engagement with its eastern neighbours.
Vision and ASEAN centrality for Indo-Pacific:
- PM Modi said India wishes to see a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN playing a central role in the emerging dynamic of the Indo-Pacific.
- He welcomed the mutual coordination of the Indo-Pacific Outlook between India and ASEAN.
- The Thai PM appreciated India for its support to the ASEAN vision for the Indo-Pacific under a “3 Ms” principle: “mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit”.
Rules based order in the Oceans:
- The Indian and ASEAN leaders also discussed the South China Sea, where China has been increasing its footprint aggressively.
- They highlighted the need to follow a “rules-based order” and to adhere to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Connectivity to counter China’s BRI:
- PM Modi said India is committed to further strengthen our partnership through stronger surface, maritime and air-connectivity and digital-link to greatly increase traffic of people for study, research, trade and tourism.
- He announced a US$ 1 billion line of credit for physical and digital connectivity.
- This is important since India has taken a strong position against China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while the Southeast Asian countries have generally been cooperating with China’s initiative.
Cooperation against terrorism:
- The Indian PM also spoke about how the menace of terrorism is a threat to international security.
- The ASEAN leaders responded by agreeing to work together to defeat terrorism.
- PM Modi announced an endowment fund of Rs 50 million for exchange of faculty and students, and 50 scholarships, in India’s agriculture universities.
- A decision was also taken to hold a start-up festival at the India-ASEAN hackathon early next year.
- On RCEP deal, PM said that opening the vast Indian market must be matched by openings in some areas where Indian businesses can also benefit.
India’s role in the regional security architecture:
- The PM highlighted the concept of SAGAR that he enunciated in 2015.
- SAGAR stands for Security And Growth for All in the Region. ‘Sagar’ in Hindi means sea.
- India seek to achieve this vision by enhancing mutual trust and expanding security cooperation.
A note on ASEAN-India relations
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
- Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia joined later making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
History and Evolution of the India-ASEAN Relations:
- Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): After its Independence in 1947, India followed a policy of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and became a champion of decolonisation, including in Southeast Asia.
- Look East Policy: In a major shift away from policies of the Cold War era, India adopted the “Look East Policy” (LEP) soon after economic liberalisation in 1991 to increase economic and commercial ties with East and Southeast Asian nations such as China.
- ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement: One of the major consequences of India’s engagement with ASEAN has been the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA), which was seen as an essential step towards deeper economic integration.
- Membership to regional forum: India was accorded full ASEAN Dialogue Partner Status in 1995, followed by its membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum.
- East Asian Summit: The India-ASEAN Relations soon broadened its cooperation into political as well as security arenas. India also joined the East Asian Summit (EAS) in 2005.
- Strategic partnership: ASEAN has been a strategic partner of India since 2012. India and ASEAN have 30 dialogue mechanisms which meet regularly.
- Act East Policy: India’s engagement with the ASEAN and wider Asia-Pacific region has acquired further momentum following the enunciation of the ‘Act-East Policy’ (AEP) at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit and 9th East Asia Summit in Myanmar in 2014.
Importance of ASEAN for India
- Economic Cooperation: ASEAN-India region together represents a combined population of 1.85 billion, a quarter of the global population, a GDP of over USD 3.8 trillion. India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner. As of 2018, bilateral trade between ASEAN and India has crossed USD 80-billion mark.
- Strategic: India is one of the strategic partners of ASEAN. India expects to benefit geopolitically as well from its rejuvenated affinity with ASEAN and other regional countries.
- Maritime trade: Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is essential for India in order to ensure that its sea-bound trade continues uninterrupted.
- Security: There are diverse areas on which India and ASEAN are jointly working, e.g. non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, human and drug trafficking, cybercrimes and piracy in the Malacca Straits, etc.
- Connectivity: The envisaged highway, rail, maritime, air and digital connectivity will improve people to people contact, thus enhancing the sphere of economic cooperation and interdependence.
- Development of North-East States: The highly underdeveloped NE States of India, which lie at the gateway to Southeast Asia, can witness an economic transformation in cooperation with ASEAN.
- Energy security: ASEAN countries, particularly Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia can potentially contribute to India’s energy security.
About ASEAN-India Summits:
- ASEAN-India dialogue relations have grown rapidly from a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1992 to a full dialogue partnership in December 1995.
- The relationship was further elevated with the convening of the ASEAN-India Summit in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
- Since then the ASEAN-India Summit has been held annually.
Section : International Relation