Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

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  • Sunil Meruva asked: What are the implications of the India-ASEAN FTA in services and investment for the Indian economy? What has been the Chinese response to growing Indian presence in the ASEAN?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: In order to craft a more decisive policy towards Southeast Asia, India capitalizes on maximizing trade and economic contacts with the ASEAN, which is the prime multilateral body that connects Asia’s three key regions together: South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. The thrust has been to capitalise on the ‘strategic partnership’ between India and the ASEAN. Though trade and economic relationship, key to the India-ASEAN partnership, has been growing, it is yet to realise its fill potential.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described the growing India-ASEAN relationship and partnership agreement as “transformational”, aimed at pushing India-ASEAN trade to almost $200 billion in the next decade; setting a realistic target of $100 billion trade by 2015. The last one-decade trade contacts between the two sides suggest that bilateral trade and economic contacts have been on ascendancy, mainly since the FTA has come into force between the two sides (See the chart below).

    (Note: Trade Figures are in approximate and compiled from open sources)

    While air and road infrastructure linkages could be one viable way to maximize the trade, the focus should also be on maritime engagements. Bilateral trade and economic engagements between India and the ASEAN has been the main hallmark of this relationship over the years. After the signing of the FTA in goods between India and the ASEAN, the bilateral trade has massively increased to 41 per cent during the year 2011-12, almost reaching $80 billion. The December 2012 India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit saw the signing of the FTA on services and investment, which would certainly help in further maximizing the trade and economic engagement in times to come. Besides, the FTA on services and investment will certainly be beneficial to the Indian economy, especially in terms of further integrating India into the Southeast Asian economies.

    For both China and India, the primary contention in their engagement with ASEAN is: who will have an edge in the ASEAN-led regional politics? Both are concerned about the geographic scope of the Asian community building. Chinese officials and scholars are worried about India’s recent revitalized approach towards the ASEAN and South-East Asia. Chinese officials do notice India’s presence and activities in the region quite seriously. If India manages to integrate itself more actively with the ASEAN and South-East Asia, ASEAN and India will be in a win–win situation when countries in the region start looking for India’s greater role, particularly in terms of economic integration at least if not in other areas, undercutting China’s influence in the region. Beijing, it may be noted, had vigorously opposed India’s association with the East Asia Summit (EAS). China has always pointedly avoided advocating a leading role for ASEAN+6 or EAS, canvassing to limit the dialogue to ASEAN+1 and ASEAN+3.

    Amol asked: Has India neglected Brunei which can be a partner in India's energy security among ASEAN countries?

    Rahul Mishra replies: Ever since the inception of Look East Policy, India has strived to seek a balance in terms of multilateral and bilateral engagement with countries of the Southeast Asian region. Even in terms of implementing the Look East Policy, no country has been given priority over the other.

    As far as ties with Brunei is concerned, regular visits by the leaders from both the sides, including the May 2008 visit of the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, Hassanal Bolkiah, to New Delhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the Sultan on the sidelines of the 10th ASEAN-India Summit in Cambodia in November 2012, testify the warmth in bilateral ties. Prior to the 10th ASEAN-India Summit, the then Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna had visited the country in October 2012. One of the objectives of his visit was to explore the possibilities of a long-term LNG supply from Brunei, which was also the country coordinator for India in the ASEAN in 2012.

    The India-Brunei energy cooperation is going smoothly and the two countries are exploring the possibility of further cooperation in this regard. In fact, the energy sector holds lion’s share in the India-Brunei trade. Out of the total US $500 million trade, energy sector contributes about US $400 million. However, India and Brunei are also mulling over the possibility of diversifying and increasing the share of other trading goods, which includes joint venture investments in hotel industry and infrastructure development. Brunei is particularly interested in investing in the Indian hotel industry, which is open to 100 per cent foreign direct investment.

    ASEAN without accord

    The Kingdom of Cambodia, chair and host of the 10 member-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), hosted the second ASEAN Summit in its Peace Palace building at Phnom Penh from July 9-13. The Summit convened its signature assemblage—the 45th ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting (AMM)/Post Ministerial Conference (PMC). Apart from this annual feature, the Summit also saw the participation of ASEAN partners from 17 countries under the aegis of 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), 13th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) and the 2nd East Asia Summit (EAS).

    July 30, 2012

    Sumit asked: What could be the reasons for the unproductive functioning of SAARC while other regional associations like ASEAN and SCO have led to effective cooperation?

    Smruti S. Pattanaik replies: First, I don’t agree that the SAARC has been unproductive for a number of reasons. Any analysis of the SAARC should take into consideration the bitter partition that the Sub-continent witnessed and the accompanied mistrust and suspicion that made normal state-to-state relations a complicated affair. The relevance of the SAARC should be seen in the following manner: (a) It provides a platform for the regional countries to meet and discuss issues confronting the region. (b) The smaller countries of the region can play a visible role by setting regional agenda in spite of 'big India's' presence. (c) It has helped in expanding areas of cooperation that require collective regional effort, including certain non-traditional issues like terrorism, drug smuggling, etc. (e) Meeting of leaders on the sidelines of the SAARC summits have often helped in ironing out bilateral differences.

    The ASEAN countries did not have contested ideologies, such as the one based on two-nation theory. The countries comprising ASEAN came together to defend themselves from the communist threat. Such external threat was absent in the case of SAARC. Rather, India was considered as a threat by some member countries. Thus, SAARC and ASEAN cannot be compared. Similarly, SCO is relatively a new organisation established in 2001. I don’t think SCO has been effective in terms of forging a common policy on Afghanistan. There is contestation between China and Russia as the latter feels that China is expanding its influence over Central Asia which is its legitimate sphere of influence. Though the forum speaks of countering terrorism; it is yet to have any comprehensive policy to deal with the post-withdrawal situation in Afghanistan.

    Myanmar’s Critical Role in Bolstering India’s Look East Policy

    Cooperation with India will help natural resources-rich Myanmar develop its true potential. And cooperation with Myanmar will help India transform the North-East, bolster its Look East Policy, and help it emerge as a major Asian power

    February 02, 2012

    Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Cooperation Problems on Human Rights

    Though the original focus of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was primarily economic cooperation, the adoption of the ASEAN charter in November 2007 officially included cooperation on human rights. This article examines three hypotheses to determine the causes of cooperation problems: regime type, non-interference policy, and absence of an enforcement mechanism in the ASEAN charter.

    January 2012

    Priya Suresh asked: China's foreign policy is becoming more assertive. Is this assertiveness of China seen as a threat by ASEAN countries?

    Rahul Mishra replies: China’s foreign policy has traditionally been considered hawkish, which is evident from China’s long-standing territorial disputes with its neighbours, and the wars it fought in the past. It was only after the end of the Cold War that China started projecting its benign image. The recent Chinese moves on the Spratly and Paracel islands disputes have however tarnished this image.

    Within the ASEAN member countries, there are varying perceptions and responses to China’s assertive behaviour.

    For instance, while countries like Indonesia and Singapore tread a cautious approach in dealing with China by keeping the US on their side. Malaysia, Laos and Myanmar are to a great extent positive about China and its rise. This goes in contrast to the Philippines and Vietnam, which have no intention to strike a compromise deal with China on the South China issue.

    As an institution, ASEAN considers engaging China through multilateral forums as its best strategy. China is also considered a partner country, which has helped ASEAN come out of a number of crises in the past. However, one cannot deny the fact that it was the Southeast Asian threat perception of China, which led to formation of ASEAN in 1967. The same persists even today, though manifestations are different.

    Therefore, what is apparent at the national level, gets transformed when the constituent countries of ASEAN come together as a unit on a matter of concern; thus resulting in ASEAN’s balanced approach towards China.

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    The study analyses the nature of Southeast Asia-India defence relations, the reasons for the growth in ties and more important, the consequences of the defence relations.


    Mosaics of Cultures: Investigating the Role of Cultural Linkages in India-Indonesia Relations

    The cultural linkages between India and Indonesia have to be leveraged, as a foreign policy tool, to take India-Indonesia relations to the next level.

    January 19, 2011

    PM’s visit to Malaysia and Vietnam

    As India deepens its strategic engagement with the countries of South East Asia, ASEAN needs to make up its mind on the mechanisms required to tackle core security issues instead of outsourcing them to a multitude of organisations.

    November 08, 2010