By: Parveen Kaswan (Follow for more updates)
India has shared a close relationship with ASEAN countries since the time of its independence. It also signed friendship treaties with Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines and consolidated its bilateral and diplomatic relations with them. However, with the signing of an “India-Soviet Peace and Friendship Cooperation Treaty” relations between India and ASEAN took a downturn.1 However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, India embarked on re-orienting its foreign Look-East policy and began reviving its economic relations with Southeast Asia.2 ASEAN too realized the importance of India as the third-largest economy in Asia and an emerging regional power and saw its significance for ASEAN’s political and economic future.
At the second ASEAN-India Summit in Bali in October 2003, India and ASEAN signed an agreement to establish a Free Trade Area. The presence of India at the East Asia Summit in December 2005 and its inclusion in the East Asia Community have further testified to the growing synergies between them and suggest a future entailing greater integration in the region. ASEAN is currently caught between the China-U.S and China-Japan conflicts over several issues in the region. Sensitivity on this score has reached a new height as many ASEAN members have become wary of China’s assertiveness in the region, and this gives India an opportunity to present itself as a responsible and good neighbour by confidence building with ASEAN countries. Now India is considering some good steps in the form of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in services and investment and alternative route through central or north Myanmar to connect Guwahati to Hanoi3. India and ASEAN have already signed an FTA in Goods in 2009 but Services and Investment part is taking longer because of strong differences between the two sides.
Latest from ASEAN summit:
- Adoption of ASEAN Human Rights declaration.
- Establishment of an ASEAN regional Mine Action Centre in Cambodia, to deal with the menace of land Mines.
- Adoption of Bali Concord 3 Plan of action 2013-2017, which is manifestation of ASEAN’s Global outreach.
What is ASEAN??
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regionally-based international organisation with ten members. ASEAN was created in 1967 with five members: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In addition to the five original members, Brunei joined in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999. The ten members have a total population of half a billion people and a combined GDP of some $700 billion. Although many people in the region are poor, there are millions of wealthy people, while the island state of Singapore is one of the most advanced economies of the world.
1Mohammad Ayoob. 1990. India and Southeast Asia: Indian Perceptions and Policies.