The cultural, economic and civilizational ties that have existed between India and South-east Asia since times immemorial have provided the strong foundation to build partnership between ASEAN and India in modern times. The two sides established a Sectoral Dialogue Partnership in 1992 which was elevated to a full-fledged dialogue partnership in 1996 and has been elevated recently to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the objective of advancing maritime security and connectivity initiatives.
LINKAGE POINT: The relations between ASEAN and India can be broadly summarized as follows:
- 1.ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade.
- 2.India places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of security and growth for all in the Region. India recentlyreaffirmed the importance of “freedom of navigation and overflight” in the strategically important region.
- 3.ASEAN is the central pillar of India’s Act East Policy which is also important for a stronghold in North-East India.
- 4.The ASEAN attracts a vital part of the energy and funding invested through the Act East policy.
- 5.India has already been a partner in ADMM Plus – a platform for ASEAN and its eight Dialogue Partners to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.
- 6.Currently, ASEAN and India have about 30 platforms for engagement, including an annual leaders’ summit and ministerial dialogues including Delhi Declaration (cooperation in maritime domain), Delhi Dialogue (annual Track 1.5 event). India is a member of ASEAN Regional Forum which aims to facilitate cooperation on political and security issues to contribute to regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.
- 7.The recently proposes India-ASEAN Initiative on Marine Plastic Pollution includes channelising of the energy of the youth towards addressing the critical issue of marine pollution.
- 1.India, ASEAN must work together for maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. Steps like like anti-piracy operations, armed robbery against ships, maritime safety, search and rescue (SAR) operations, humanitarian assistance, and emergency response and relief can be taken.
- 2.Enhanced collaboration would help against terrorism and transnational crimes including international economic crimes and money laundering, cybercrime, drugs and human trafficking and arms smuggling.
- 3.Enhanced cooperation in the space sector including through the establishment of Tracking, Data reception and Processing Stations in Viet Nam and Indonesia. India’s upcoming private sector in space has huge potential in this regard.
- 4. Both sides can deepen cooperation in the digitally supported agriculture sector to ensure a future-ready, resilient, sustainable food supply.
- 5. ASEAN can work closely with India in terms of securing affordable vaccines and medicines for their citizens as the whole world is still facing health challenges. ASEAN-India science and technology fund to enhance cooperation in sectors of public health, renewable energy and smart agriculture can play a major role here.
- 6. Not just India but most ASEAN countries are at the receiving end of climate change. Hence, negotiations in favour of emerging economies and vulnerable nations at COP-28 can receive impetus with collective efforts.
- 7.Collaboration with the ASEAN nations is necessary to counter insurgency in the Northeast, combat terrorism, tax evasions etc.
India has cultivated strong bonds of historical and contemporary significance with the ASEAN.
India’s engagement with the ASEAN countries is necessary when China wants to aggressively increase its dominance in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.
India is taking steps in the right direction with increasing influence over the region, by increasing solidarity, pushing connectivity initiatives and now defence co-operations. The yielding of the measures will shortly be seen in an upcoming joint exercise.