Southeast Asia

You are here

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Avinash Roy asked: Why did India lag behind other South-East Asian countries in terms of level of economic development after 1990s reforms?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: India initiated its liberalisation policy in the early 1990s - the same time it introduced its Look East Policy. Prior to it, the immediate post-independence period was marked by economic policy which had its roots in anti-colonialism, socialism and non alignment /reticence to join any power blocs.

    Southeast Asian democracy: New time and take

    Southeast Asian countries are facing challenging times. Push for further democratisation within the countries and the established regimes resistance to it has the possibility of jeopardising the region’s political stability and which may impede the movement towards a ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

    April 07, 2014

    Arun Raj Asked : What constitute China's ‘core interests’, and what are its implications for India’s relationship with Southeast Asia?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: China initially qualified its rise as “peaceful rise”. This was given the lie as the notion of “core interest” increasingly entered its policy discourse and gained currency. At first, China limited its use of the idea of “core interest” to Taiwan. Then it was extended to include the troubled regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. It could be said that till this point, the Chinese assertiveness did not impinge on the Southeast Asian States directly. When in March 2010 China began referring to South China Sea as its “core interest”, the maritime interests of the Southeast Asian claimant states like Vietnam and the Philippines were directly affected. Later in May 2013, Chinese “core interest” further expanded to include Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) and surrounding parts of the East China Sea.

    On the one hand, Vietnam and Philippines were subjected to Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and on the other, India faced a stand-off in Ladakh. India supports resolution of maritime disputes in a peaceful manner and better adherence to international law, freedom of navigation and an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct. In doing so, India seeks a coordinated approach in the various regional and international multilateral fora.

    Arnab Sen asked: What are the contours of India's defence diplomacy in East and Southeast Asia?

    Rahul Mishra replies: Defence diplomacy is a tool often deployed by countries to bring about perceptual changes in their image and to strengthen relations with other countries. A number of initiatives including institutionalisation of defence dialogues and regular exchange of visits by leaders, diplomats and military personnel constitute the various facets of defence diplomacy. Joint military exercises between countries and visit of military officials to one another’s training institutions are also part of defence diplomacy. So far as India’s defence diplomacy in the Southeast Asian region is concerned, it has of late been proactive and productive.

    With its rising military and economic prowess, India is expected to play a key role in the East and Southeast Asian region. In 2012, the US Secretary of State Leon E. Panetta called India a ‘linchpin’ in the US’ rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region (see Leon E Panetta’s speech at IDSA on June 06, 2012). A growing realisation in the Indian policy circles that India will have to assert itself as a major regional player and play the role of a credible and responsible stakeholder has led to numerous diplomatic initiatives. In this regard, defence diplomacy has played a key role in making India a key strategic partner of countries in the region including Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. Indian defence minister’s visit to Singapore, Australia and Thailand in early June 2013 underscores the point. The signing of pacts for extension of training facilities for Singapore armed forces, extradition treaty with Thailand and substantiating defence agreements with Indonesia are latest moves on that count. Apart from regular bilateral and multilateral exercises, like SIMBEX, BOLD Kurukshetra, MILAN, Malabar, INDINDOCORPAT, etc., India’s enhanced cooperation with Indonesia, Thailand and Australia for anti-piracy operations have also added value to India’s defence diplomacy in the East and Southeast Asian region.

    India’s Maritime Diplomacy in Southeast Asia: An Assessment of the INS Sudarshini Expedition

    INS Sudarshini, India’s Sail Training Ship (STS), was sent on a commemorative expedition to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries for six months along the monsoon trade winds route to trace India’s civilisational and cultural affinities and rejuvenate trade and maritime linkages with its neighbours in the East. The voyage was part of the commemoration of the successful completion of two decades of India’s Look East Policy, 20 years of dialogue relations with ASEAN, and 10 years of India–ASEAN summit-level partnership.

    September 2013

    Arnab Sen asked: Which countries in Southeast Asia are strategically important for India, and why?

    Rahul Mishra replies: India has always considered Southeast Asia as a region of high economic and strategic priority. From Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and K.M. Panikkar’s writings to India’s Maritime Doctrine - all refer to the significance of the region for India. By initiating the Look East Policy (LEP) in 1992, India further reinforced the significance of countries of Southeast Asia in its foreign policy and strategic planning. Without being selective, LEP focuses on all ten-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In fact, Phase II of the LEP aims to look even beyond Southeast Asia to strengthen ties with Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand- countries that fall in the wider East Asian region.

    India has also undertaken sub-regional initiatives, such as, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC). Both the BIMSTEC and MGC aim to engage the mainland Southeast Asian countries - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

    It would be naïve to grade countries of the region in terms of their strategic importance for India. India’s linkages with Southeast Asia encompass numerous aspects including culture, diaspora, defence cooperation, economic ties and India’s own developmental and security concerns. Each of these factors contributes to the strategic significance of countries in the region for India. For instance, while Vietnam has traditionally been a close friend on defence issues, Singapore is an equally important partner. By virtue of being a maritime neighbour and biggest country in terms of size, population and economy, Indonesia has always been a priority country. India has also maintained cordial relations with Malaysia and the Philippines over the years. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are critically important for development and security of India’s north-eastern states. Transport linkages and religious tourism has further enhanced their importance.

    Additionally, India has had multilateral linkages with Southeast Asian countries through a number of institutional mechanisms, such as, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus.

    Sandeep Dogra asked: Could water be a source of future conflict in South & South-East Asia? What could be its ramifications for India?

    Uttam Kumar Sinha replies: Water can be a source of dispute both 'within' countries as well as 'between' countries. Dispute cannot be the same as conflict and conflict cannot be the same as war. Water tensions will exist but water war is unlikely. South Asia has large river systems. Prominent are the Indus River in the west and the Ganga-Brahamaputra-Meghna in the east. With population pressures and the need to achieve developmental goals, disputes and grievances arise over the use of and control over the rivers. Structures like dams and barrages create upper-lower riparian tensions that have the potential to lead to conflict.

    Numerous bilateral treaties exist but are also often hostage to the prevailing political animosity. Resource nationalism will increasingly dominate the hydrological contours of South Asia and will largely define regional politics. Many of the existing riparian treaties will come under pressure over the sharing and harnessing of river waters. India’s riparian relation with its neighbours will become progressively testing with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal continuously raising concerns over regulating and sharing of river waters. While South Asia remains a difficult region with high suspicion and mistrust, remarkably water sharing is far more formatted with institutional mechanisms than any other issue. What probably would be required in the future is a political consensus based on interdisciplinary knowledge involving different stakeholders on how to share the benefits of the rivers. That's the challenge.

    Disaster Management in South-east Asia

    South-east Asia is the epicentre of frequent disasters of varying intensity. The damage to life and property caused by these disasters is comparable to that caused by war. Disasters disrupt the national economy and social development. Besides, the world has shrunk and news about the hardship suffered by the people is rapidly disseminated. As such, the management of disasters has become a key concern of governments confronted with an increasingly aware civil society and a shorter reaction time.

    January 2012