The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalisation. India’s search for economic space resulted in the ‘Look East Policy’. The Look East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy. PM at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November, 2014, formally enunciated the Act East Policy.
India's relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy.
The up-gradation of the relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 was a natural progression to the ground covered since India became a Sectoral Partner of the ASEAN in 1992, Dialogue Partner in 1996 and Summit Level Partner in 2002.
There are, in total, 30 Dialogue Mechanisms between India and ASEAN, cutting across various sectors.
25th Anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations:
India and ASEAN are observing 25 years of their Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership throughout 2017 uptil 2018 by undertaking a wide range of activities, both in India and through our Missions in ASEAN Member States, which would culminate in a Commemorative Summit on the theme "Shared Values, Common Destiny.”
Mission to ASEAN:
India has set up a separate Mission to ASEAN and the EAS in Jakarta in April 2015 with a dedicated Ambassador to strengthen engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-centric processes.
Illustrated below is a snapshot of India's multilateral engagement with the ASEAN :
- Plans of Action:
As a reflection of the interest of ASEAN and India to intensify their engagement, the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity, which sets out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement, was signed at the 3rd ASEAN-India Summit in 2004 in Vientiane. A Plan of Action (POA) for the period 2004-2010 was also developed to implement the Partnership. The 3rd POA (2016-20) was adopted by the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in August 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Furthermore, ASEAN and India have identified Priority Areas for the period of 2016-2018 and are already implementing activities under it, which would contribute towards successful implementation of the 2016-2020 Plan of Action.
- Political Security Cooperation:
Faced with growing traditional and non-traditional challenges, politico-security cooperation is a key and an emerging pillar of our relationship. Rising export of terror, growing radicalization through ideology of hatred, and spread of extreme violence define the landscape of common security threats to our societies. Our partnership with ASEAN seeks to craft a response that relies on coordination, cooperation and sharing of experiences at multiple levels.
The main forum for ASEAN security dialogue is the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). India has been attending annual meetings of this forum since 1996 and has actively participated in its various activities. The ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN. The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis. Defense Minister attended the 4th ADMM Plus held from 23-24 October 2017 in Manila, Philippines.
- Economic Cooperation:
India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India's fourth largest trading partner.India's trade with ASEAN has increased to US$ 71.69 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 65 billion in 2015-16. India's export to ASEAN has increased to US$ 31 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 25 billion in 2015-16.
Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 12.5% of investment flows into India since 2000. FDI inflows into India from ASEAN between April 2000 to May 2016 was about US$49.40 billion, while FDI outflows from India to ASEAN countries, from April 2007 to March 2015, as per data maintained by DEA, was about US$38.672 billion.The ASEAN-India Free Trade Area has been completed with the entering into force of the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Service and Investments on 1 July 2015.
ASEAN and India have been also working on enhancing private sector engagement. ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in March 2003 in Kuala Lumpur as a forum to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform for business networking and sharing of ideas.
- Socio-Cultural Cooperation:
We have been organizing a large number of programmes to boost People-to-People Interaction with ASEAN, such as inviting ASEAN students to India each year for the Students Exchange Programme, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, Participation of ASEAN students in the National Children’s Science Congress, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, etc.
ASEAN-India connectivity is a priority for India as also the ASEAN countries. In 2013, India became the third dialogue partner of ASEAN to initiate an ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee-India Meeting. While India has made considerable progress in implementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Project, issues related to increasing the maritime and air connectivity between ASEAN and India and transforming the corridors of connectivity into economic corridors are under discussion. A possible extension to India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam is also under consideration. A consensus on finalising the proposed protocol of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement (IMT MVA) has been reached. This agreement will have a critical role in realizing seamless movement of passenger, personal and cargo vehicles along roads linking India, Myanmar and Thailand. PM announced a Line of Credit of US$ 1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN and a Project Development Fund with a corpus of INR 500 crores to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries at the 13th ASEAN India Summit held in Malaysia in November 2015.
Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India offers project-based financial assistance to ASEAN countries. Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the following Funds:
- ASEAN-India Fund: At the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in 2009, India announced a contribution of US$ 50 million to the ASEAN-India Fund, to support implementation of the ASEAN-India Plans of Action, which envisage cooperation in a range of sectors in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation. Projects worth approx. US$ 48 million are under various stages of implementation or processing. In order to take the development and capacity building initiatives forward, PM has proposed enhancing the ASEAN-India Fund with an additional grant of US$ 50 million at the 14th ASEAN India Summit in Vientiane in September 2016.
- ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund: At the 6th ASEAN-India Summit in November 2007 in Singapore, India announced the setting up of an ASEAN-India Science & Technology Development Fund with a US$ 1 million contribution from India to promote joint collaborative R&D research projects in Science & Technology. This Fund become operational in 2009-10 and expenditure began to be incurred from FY 2010-11. This fund has been enhanced to US$5 million from 2016-17. Projects worth US$ 0.67 million are already under implementation and new projects are being identified.
- ASEAN-India Green Fund: At the 6th ASEAN-India Summit on 21 November 2007 in Singapore, India announced the setting up of an ASEAN-India Green Fund with an initial contribution of US$ 5 million from India, to support collaboration activities relating to environment and climate change. Some of the areas identified for collaboration under the Fund are climate change, energy efficiency, clean technologies, renewable energy, biodiversity conservation and environmental education. Projects worth US$ 1.97 million covered under this Fund are currently at the implementation stage.
- ASEAN-India Projects:
India has been cooperating with ASEAN by way of implementation of various projects in the fields of Agriculture, Science & Technology, Space, Environment & Climate Change, Human Resource Development, Capacity Building, New and Renewable Energy, Tourism, People-to-People contacts and Connectivity etc.
Some of the prominent projects, which are either ongoing or completed are as follows:
Space Project envisaging establishment of a Tracking, Data Reception/Data Processing Station in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam and upgradation of Telemetry Tracking and Command Station in Biak, Indonesia; Setting up of Centres of Excellence in Software Development & Training in CLMV countries; e-Network for provision of tele-medicine and tele-education in CLMV countries, Quick Impact Projects in CLMV etc.
Apart from the above projects, India has been supporting ASEAN, especially CLMV countries under the Initiatives for ASEAN Integration, which include projects on Training of English Language for Law Enforcement Officers in CLMV countries and Training of professionals dealing with capital markets in CLMV by National Institute of Securities Management Mumbai, scholarships for ASEAN students for higher education at Nalanda University, Training of ASEAN Civil Servants in drought management, disaster risk management, sustainable ground water management etc. To boost People-to-people Interaction with ASEAN, India has been organising various programmes including Training Programme 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, ASEAN-India Students Exchange programme, ASEAN-India Media Exchange programme etc.
In Agriculture, we are cooperating with ASEAN by way of projects such as Exchange of Farmers, ASEAN-India Fellowships for Higher Agricultural Education in India and ASEAN, Exchange of Agriculture Scientists, Empowerment of Women through Cooperatives, Training Course on Organic Certification for Fruits and Vegetables etc. In the S&T field, we have projects such as ASEAN-India S&T Digital Library, ASEAN-India Virtual Institute for Intellectual Property, ASEAN-India Collaborative Project on S&T for Combating Malaria, ASEAN-India Programme on Quality Systems in Manufacturing, ASEAN-India Collaborative R&D Project on Mariculture, Bio-mining and Bioremediation Technologies etc.
- Delhi Dialogue:
India has an annual Track 1.5 event Delhi Dialogue, for discussing politico-security and economic issues between ASEAN and India. Since 2009, India has had nine editions of this event. The 9th edition of Delhi Dialogue was hosted by the MEA on the theme "Charting the Course for India-ASEAN Relations for the Next 25 years" from 4-5 July 2017 in New Delhi.
- ASEAN-India Centre (AIC):
Set up in 2013, the AIC has been serving as a resource centre for ASEAN Member States and India, for strengthening ASEAN-India strategic partnership and promoting India-ASEAN dialogue and cooperation in the areas of mutual interests. AIC has provided inputs to policy makers in India and ASEAN on implementation of ASEAN-India connectivity initiatives by organising seminars, roundtables etc. AIC also organizes workshops, seminars and conferences on various issues relevant to ASEAN-India strategic partnership. It undertakes regular networking activities with relevant public/private agencies, organizations and think-tanks in India and ASEAN and EAS countries, with the aim of providing up-to-date information, data resources and sustained interaction, for promoting ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership.
- ASEAN Studies Centre:
Inaugurated on 8 August 2016, it functions from the Indian Council of Social Science and Research-North Eastern Regional Centre located in the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU) in Shillong. The Centre is expected to facilitate ASEAN-India research projects, studies, workshops and related activities.