India-ASEAN Relations

Note: Important because of 25 years of relationship
Key Fact:
  • ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade.
  • India is ASEAN’s 7th largest trading partner. Trade is back on track and registered an 8 per cent increase in 2016- 17, as compared to the previous year.
  • ASEAN comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Basic Philosophy in Relations:
  • India wants to evolve a regional architecture based on the twin principles of shared security and shared prosperity. It emphasized on enhancing maritime security, trade and investment, education and cultural heritage among the grouping.
  • India called for a deeper economic integration with the “dynamic” ASEAN region.
  • The 3Cs- commerce, connectivity and culture are the important markers in India’s engagement with South East Asia.
SAGAR  [Security and Growth for All in the Region]:
  • It recognises the central role played by the seas and oceans around India and ASEAN region, in promoting sustainable economic progress in a secure and stable environment.
Outcome of India-ASEAN Summit:
  • ASEAN-India adopted a document aiming at politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and people oriented people centered ASEAN-India Community.
  • The document recognizes the vital importance of the planned review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods (AITIG) Agreement. It seeks to ensure that the agreement is trade-facilitative and remains relevant to the current global trading practices.
  • The document also emphasizes the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability, unimpeded commerce, freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.
  • Emphasis on the need for a coordinated response from the ASEAN member nations to combat terror

Example of Chinese Challenge:
  • In Cambodia, many government vehicles sport the tag, “Gifted by friends from China”.
  • India was instrumental in Cambodia securing freedom, but today finds it difficult to have a significant commercial presence in that country.


How different is India’s new “Act East” policy compared to “Look East” policy. Critically analyse the merits and shortcomings of Act East policy. (200 Words)
India’s Look East policy is concerned with giving importance to eastern neighbours of the country by building better ties with them and improving trade relations. However India’s Act East policy goes one step further and encourages a proactive role for India to play in its eastern neighbourhood. This include assuming leadership position by reinvigorating platforms such as BIMSTEC and working actively on infrastructure connectivity issues.
Connecting North East region to Sittwe port in Myanmar and Chittagong port in Bangladesh, focusing on India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan Multi-Model Transport Project are some of the projects which have received push under the Act East Policy. In addition, India is capitalizing on its soft power and by cultural link through Buddhism to build better relations with the eastern neighbours.
  1. It makes the North east an integral part of India’s foreign policy. The region will be the main beneficiary and primary actor in the policy.
  2. It identifies the economic and geo-political importance of South East Asian countries.
  3. Possibilities of Free Trade Agreements – Easy movement of people and money (investments). This will be linked with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) countries which will give further boost [especially services]. Trade with ASEAN expected to reach 100 billion: Counter EU slowdown.
  4. Manufacturing in CMLV: Employment generation, HRD development, Export potentials
  5. The vast untapped natural resources and energy of the region, might prove promising.
  6. The countries have common interests in securing their sea, following international laws of navigation, issues of smuggling, piracy and exploitation of ocean resources.
  7. Active engagement with Myanmar and Bangladesh in tackling issues like drug trafficking, smuggling, etc. in North East of India. Also people to people contacts will be enhanced by various planned transport linkages.
  8. India can leverage its cultural connections to maximum to involve these nations more actively in organizations like BIMSTEC and Ganga Mekong Corporation.
  9. Our centuries old cultural and religious engagement are basic ground for required trust.
Some challenges:
  1. The issue of smuggling of drugs, goods and arms if we open our north east is not addressed.
  2. Growing influence of china in the region.
Sagarmala and Project Mausam are good initiatives and not overtly opposing String of Pearls or Maritime Silk Route. The entire stretch of Indian Ocean from the Gulf to Malacca are strategic points for both India and China.

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