India’s role in promoting ASEAN co-operation

India’s role in promoting ASEAN co-operation


ASEAN region has always been of strategic importance in the Asian continent. With members comprising of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand which have been become distinctly noticeable in the world in recent times due to increasing trade amongst other reasons. Other countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Brunei joined the ASEAN or Association of South-East Asian nations over time.

Why was ASEAN formed?

ASEAN was formed for accelerating growth, cultural development as well as ensuring political and economic stability in the region. India was looked at with suspicion when it wanted to join ASEAN because of its size and population,

India-ASEAN partnership moved a step further when the country became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992. These sectors included trade, tourism as well as science and technology. ASEAN invited India to become a full dialogue partner in 1995. Over years, the country has signed packs with a number of countries which align the tariff in order to make it suitable for the East Asian countries as well.

The country is engaged in negotiations to form ‘a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Singapore. It promised economic cooperation for increasing the trade turnover to S 12 billion. India’s most prominent trading partners include Malaysia and Singapore.

The greater intra trade has also boosted tourism. Other things hich are likely to play an increasing role in ASEAN are the maritime security, counter-terrorismand disaster management. ASEAN future is on track and the prospects of bilateral trade links are likely to be a key in future.

India is firmly committed to the “Look-East” policy of building links with countries in the region along with widening of the partnership. It is also because India is slowly rising as a power to reckon with in the Asian region and hence its foreign policy should be good enough to take care of its ambitions.

If India can create a benign presence in the whole of South East Asia despite its neighbour China, its zone of influence would be through diplomacy and friendly manner. The liberalisation of Indian economy has made the government focus on “Look-east policy” and expansion of relation with South-East Asian countries.

India and Thailand signed free trade area pack which allows importing of 84 items at 50% of the normal duty that is there in India. The aim was to make the tariff same across the South East Asian countries.

The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) as well as The Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) are some of the vital steps that India and the Asian countries have agreed on for taking the cooperation between the two countries to a different level.

Regular India-ASEAN submits as well as the change in international politics over the last two decades has also made relations between India and ASEAN better. The relations include political, security dimensions and many other trade pacts that have ease the trading between Indian and ASEAN.

Since 21st nature has been termed as Asian century, India and China are definitely slated to play a big role in it. It is said that India along with ASEAN can be like the Eurozone in which where there would be less restriction of trade, freedom to move about without the need for a visa along with good network connectivity by making highways as well as other infrastructure.


India’s advent as a major power internationally should be seen as an asset by ASEAN countries as it can raise the reputation of the country multi-fold. The countries should be of the view that the opportunities that “ India being a big power” would also lead to opportunities in their own countries along with a healthy and peaceful Asian order.
It would be some kind of litmus test for Indian policy makers to ensure stability in the region, maintain cooperation between the countries and indirectly help in achieving objective of more trade that would boost the economy and provide employment to people in both the countries.

The country has always been a peacekeeper amongst many disturbing elements in the region and it is this quality that other countries would look to India to maintain peace and harmony.
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  • RE: India’s role in promoting ASEAN co-operation -Hemant Sharma (08/09/14)
  • Before we find out the role of India in promoting ASEAN, it is very important that we have a background as to what ASEAN is. ASEAN is an intergovernmental organization formed by the respective governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand through the Bangkok Declaration which was duly signed by their foreign minister. There have been a few additions since the initial launch. Brunei, Vietnam, Laos & Mayanmar, Cambodia are some of them.

    The main objectives of ASEAN are to enhance the economic growth, social progress and cultural development which will in return maintain the political and economic stability of the South East Asian region. In the initial stages, neither India nor ASEAN were keen on cordial relations due to suspicions on both the sides. Truth be told, India were always interested in joining ASEAN but were suspicious of American diplomacy in the organization. India was always interested in ASEAN in view of its steady economic progress, but there were countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand who opposed India’s inclusion in ASEAN.

    ASEAN is an effort made to strengthen the Asian trade which would help in establishing cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and various other fields among its member countries. As it stands, India-ASEAN relationship is taking the fast lane. The mutual interests of India as well as ASEAN saw India becoming an active member of the organization in 1995. Since then, India has signed pact for various trades with Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and many more. Among ASEAN members, Singapore and Malaysia by far are the most prominent trading partners with India.

    As this bond between ASEAN and India is increasing it is reflecting on the intra-country trade figures. There has been a huge lift in the figures since 2010-11. There are various proposals lined up to strengthen the land and sea connectivity, which would include India-Myanmar-Thailand highway for faster trading. This in later stages would be extended to Laos-Cambodia to achieve the full accessibility to the ASEAN nations.

    As seen, growth in India’s exports to ASEAN has been substantial and by far exceeding the exports to other destinations. This has indirectly resulted in a hike in the tourism department of India due to the people-to-people links. From this point one can only expect this to grow further. With India and ASEAN countries planning to establish roads and rail links between them once can only imagine the bond to get stronger and stronger.

    There are various projects which are in the process of implementation under the India-ASEAN Science and Technology fund. The recently concluded summit saw our former PM Mr. Manmohan Singh addressing the security related issue including the maritime security, counter-terrorism, training, exercises and disaster management. The Trade in goods agreed upon mutually from both the sides, is targeted to eliminate the tariffs which would lead to growth in bilateral trade and investment resulting in economic benefits to India and the ASEAN members.

    India’s strategic and diplomatic maneuvers in South-East Asia are signs of its intent to play a more substantial in role in Asia. The relations between India and ASEAN nations have gradually evolved over the years, with India rising in power. India is constantly taking huge leaps towards the status of a major power. To make the ASEAN countries realize their own success in the success of India would indeed be the litmus test for present and future of Indian government.