Tuesday, 9 January 2018

ASEAN-India relations

ASEAN-India relations

ASEAN-India relations are firmly embedded in culture, commerce and connectivity. Starting as a sectoral partner of ASEAN in 1992, India became a dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1996, a summit-level partner in 2002 and a strategic partner in 2012. The year 2017 marks the 25 years of ASEAN-India dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit level interaction and 5 years of strategic partnership. The ASEAN-India relations have gained constant momentum throughout this period.

The ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) is a free trade area among the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India. The initial framework agreement was signed on 8 October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia. and the final agreement was on 13 August 2009.The free trade area came into effect on 1 January 2010.India hosted the latest ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on 20–21 December 2012. As of 2011-12, two-way trade between India & ASEAN stood at US$79.86 billion surpassing the US$70 billion target.

ASEAN Member States

At the Second ASEAN-India Summit in 2003, the ASEAN-India Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was signed by the Leaders of ASEAN and India. The Framework Agreement laid a sound basis for the eventual establishment of an ASEAN-India Regional Trade and Investment Area (RTIA), which includes FTA in goods, services, and investment.

ASEAN and India signed the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods (TIG) Agreement in Bangkok on 13 August 2009, after six years of negotiations. The ASEAN-India TIG Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2010. The 7th ASEAN-India Summit in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand on 24 October 2009 agreed to revise the bilateral trade target to 70 billion USD to be achieved in the next two years, noting that the initial target of USD 50 billion set in 2007 may soon be surpassed.

At the 10th ASEAN-India Summit in New Delhi on 20 December 2012, India and ASEAN concluded negotiations for FTAs in services and investments. The two sides expect bilateral trade to increase to $100 billion by 2015, and $200 billion within a decade.

ASEAN and India are also working on enhancing private sector engagement. Details on the re-activation of the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC), the holding of the ASEAN-India Business Summit (AIBS) and an ASEAN-India Business Fair (AIBF), are being worked out by officials. On 27 April 2010, India informed the ASEAN Secretariat that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) would be organising the ASEAN Trade and Industrial Exhibition at the Pragati Maidan in New Delhi on 8–11 January 2011, at the sidelines of the AIBF.


Before the agreement was signed, the Chief Minister of Kerala, V.S. Achuthanandan, led a delegation to the Indian Prime Minister protesting against the FTA. The state of Kerala is an important exporter in the national export of plantation products. It fears that cheap imports of rubber, coffee, and fish would lower domestic production, adversely affecting farmers and ultimately its economy. Kerala has already experienced a flooding of its market with inexpensive imports under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement of 2006. Cheap coconuts from Sri Lanka and palm oil from Malaysia has since hindered Kerala's coconut cultivation.

The economies of the ASEAN countries are largely export-driven, maintaining high export-to-GDP ratios. Considering this, as well as the global financial crisis and India's expansive domestic market, the ASEAN countries will look eagerly towards India as a home for its exports.


The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. 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.

Apart from ASEAN, India has taken other policy initiatives in the region that involve some members of ASEAN like BIMSTEC, MGC etc. India is also an active participant in several regional forums like the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting + (ADMM+) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

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.

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.

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 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” on 25 January 2018. We have also hosted a Youth Summit and a Connectivity Summit among other events. In the run up to the Summit, we plan to host a Business & Investment Meet and Expo, Business Conclave, Textile Event and Regional Indian Diaspora Meet. In addition, we have organized throughout the year academic conferences, business events and cultural festivals.

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.

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$ 70 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 65 billion in 2015-16.

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. As part of commomerative events we have organised Youth centric Programs such as youth summit, artists camp and music band festival.

Connectivity: 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. We have also organised a Connectivity Summit in December 2017.

Funds: ASEAN Multilateral Division offers project-based financial assistance to ASEAN countries. Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the following Funds:

ASEAN-India Cooperation 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 (AISTDF): 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 in the final stages of approval are as follows:

Space Project envisaging establishment of a Tracking, Data Reception/Data Processing Station in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 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.

 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 4-5 July 2017 in New DelhI

ASEAN-India Centre (AIC): At the Commemorative Summit held in 2012, the Heads of the Government recommended establishment of ASEAN-India Centre (AIC) to undertake policy research, advocacy and networking activities with organizations and think-tanks in India and ASEAN, with the aim to promote the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership. 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.

12 December 2017

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