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1. ASEAN - 10 Member Group Formed in 1967:
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an economic political and cultural organisation of the countries of South East Asia. Formed in Bangkok in 1967. Members include Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

2. ASEAN Dialogue Partners:
China, Japan, South Korea and India are ASEAN's dialogue partners at the summit level.

3. Population and Trade:
The ASEAN region has a population of 500 million and annual trade worth $720 billion.

4. Headquarters:
Jakarta (Indonesia).

5. Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC):
Based on security concerns for the region. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) was adopted at the Bali Summit in 1976. A member has to accede to TAC to join the group. It lays down the country’s commitment to the principles of amity and cooperation, in consonance with the spirit of consensus practised by ASEAN. The main intention is to avoid conflict or confrontation.

6. ARF:
In 1994, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was created by ASEAN as a larger platform to discuss security issues relating to the Asia-Pacific region. It became the security plank of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which has 18 members.

7. ASEAN + 3:
The ASEAN + 3 forum consists of all 10 members of ASEAN, and China, Japan and South Korea.

8. Pact with India and China to Create the World’s Biggest Free Trade Zone:
On November 29, 2004, the ASEAN nations signed an accord with India and China to create the world’s biggest free trade zone by removing tariffs for their 2 billion people by the decade’s end. This is seen as a significant step in ASEAN’s vision of a trade bloc to rival Europe and North America.

9. New Charter for a Rule-Based Organisation Adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore in November 2007:
Calls for free-trade economic bloc by 2015 Aims for a single Southeast Asian market and production base with free flow of goods, services, investment and capital Aims to promote rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government. To maintain and enhance peace and security in the region, and to preserve Southeast Asia as a nuclear weapon-free zone. Accords a legal identity to ASEAN for international negotiations and transactions. Non-interference into the affairs of member States

1. Significance of the New Charter:
ASEAN's First Document in 40 Years of Existence:
The new rule-based Charter adopted by the ASEAN at its annual summit in Singapore in November 2007 was the group's first such document in 40 years of existence. The Charter is based on the same principles as its core.

Charter a Crucial Step in Making ASEAN Stronger and Relevant with Deeper Regional Integration:
The new landmark Charter adopted by the ASEAN was a crucial step in making ASEAN stronger and relevant with accelerated deeper regional integration, according to the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.


I. Introduction:

1. India's Look East Policy:

India’s “look east” policy was initiated in 1991 by former Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao. It coincided with India’s economic reforms and stressed on engaging more with its East Asian neighbours. The aim was to get key countries of the region interested in India’s potential as an investment destination.

2. Redefining Neighbourhood:
India is now conceptually redefining its neighbourhood. It now sees South-east Asia as a core part of its neighbourhood.

3. India’s Relations with ASEAN:
Relations Suffered During the Cold-War Period:
Indo-ASEAN relations suffered during the Cold-War period due to differing perceptions on different issues. India was always inclined towards the former Soviet Union whereas the ASEAN was pro - US and China.

1991- Improvement in Relations after Economic Liberalisation by India:
In 1991, when India adopted the economic liberalisation programme, trade with individual ASEAN countries increased manifold.

1992- Sectoral Dialogue Partner:
In 1992, India was allotted the sectoral dialogue partner status by the ASEAN. The dialogue focussed on structuring economic and technological cooperation between India and the ASEAN.

1995- Dialogue Partner:
In 1995, India was allotted the status of full-fledged dialogue partner. This allowed India to be a regular participant in the annual dialogue sessions and the ARF that discusses security issues.

2002- ASEAN-India Summits:
From 2002, India-ASEAN annual summit meetings have been institutionalised as a formal structure of the ASEAN’s annual process.

4. The Importance of ASEAN to India:

a. Strategic and Economic Importance:

Pivotal to India's Look East Policy:
 The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is important to India for security and strategic reasons as well as for commercial, economic and cultural reasons. ASEAN is pivotal to India’s “look east” policy, according to the former Prime Minister, Mr. Vajpayee. The air land and trade routes pass through this region which is of vital importance to India. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar are endowed with energy resources. India and the ASEAN nations are rich in agriculture, raw materials and natural resources. Thus broadbased economic cooperation can have a positive impact.
b. Emerging Economic Bloc:
ASEAN which links 10 Southeast Asian countries is seen by India as an emerging economic bloc for expanding trade ties.

c. India Shares Land and Maritime Boundaries with ASEAN:
Since the entry of Myanmar, India shares land and maritime boundaries with the ASEAN region. India has a stake in the peace and stability of the region.

d. Security of Sealanes:
The security of sealanes in the Indian Ocean that would facilitate India’s greater commercial activities with the ASEAN countries had assumed an added importance. India was keenly looking forward to close cooperation from the ASEAN nations in this regard.

e. Engagement with ASEAN Based on Stability and Collective Security:
India’s engagement with ASEAN must grow steadily. There is an obvious growth potential within the economic arena but concern about China in this region provides the impetus, according to analysts. However, engagement with ASEAN must be based on larger considerations about stability in Asia and the common military and non-military threats.

5. India’s Importance to ASEAN:

a. India’s Advantage in IT and Pharma Technologies:
 India can offer ASEAN investments and IT (Information Technology) and pharma technologies among others. India has comparative advantage in services, software and in knowledge-based manufacturing.

b. Access to India’s Large Consumer Market:
The ASEAN economies will benefit by access to vast Indian consumer market.

c. Mutuality of Strategic Interest:

Vulnerable to Terrorism:

Some of the ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore have become vulnerable to terrorism, many aspects of which have a bearing on the terrorist scourge facing India. Hence, there is mutuality of strategic interest between India and the ASEAN. Common threats faced by India and the ASEAN include drug trafficking, piracy at sea and smuggling.

Strategic Importance Reason Behind Major Powers Interest in the Stability of the Region:
Analysts point out that the strategic importance of India and the ASEAN results in the major powers of the world being interested in the stability of the region.

II. Sixth India-ASEAN Summit (Singapore, November 21, 2007):

1. India's Proposals:

Enhancement of Trade with ASEAN:
Addressing the sixth India-ASEAN summit in Singapore in November 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed on increasing trade which could become a key element in the search for a robust institutional architecture for regional cooperation and action.

Bilateral Trade Target of $50 billion by 2010:
Dr. Singh proposed to enhance bilateral trade with the ASEAN countries from the current $30 billion to $50 billion by 2010.

Simpler Visa Regime:
A simpler visa regime for businessmen to travel, whereby bona fide businessmen could get visa the same day was proposed.

India Flexible and Determined to Achieve the Objective of an India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA):
The Prime Minister assured the ASEAN members that India has shown and will continue to show flexibility and determination to achieve the objective of an India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Trade between India and ASEAN would increase by 30 per cent annually with the FTA in place.

III. Significance of the India-ASEAN Summits:

1. Recognition of India as an Emerging Global Player:
 Analysts point out that ASEAN’s willingness to engage India at this time reflects the recognition of India as an emerging global player - both in terms of economic interests as well as regional security considerations.

2. Institutionalising the Dialogue Process in Significant for Development of Ties:
The ASEAN-India annual summit is a significant step in institutionalisation of dialogue as formal structure of the ASEAN’s annual processes. The process of institutionalisation is a significant step in the development of ASEAN’s ties with its summit partners.

3. Strengthening Geo-Political Ties Through Economic Endeavour:
The focus is on fine-tuning the network of economic linkages between India and the ASEAN, which together account for a GDP of the order of $1.5 trillion.Indo-ASEAN trade is set to grow from $30 billion to $50 billion in 2010.

4. Mutually Beneficial Cooperation on Countering Terrorism:
India’s exchanges with the ASEAN on global and regional terrorist threats will be relevant to both sides. After September, 11, 2001, southeast Asia has emerged as a hub of terrorism. The governments of ASEAN nations have been concerned at the reported linkages between the local terrorist groups with Al-Qaeda.

5. Benefits of Cooperation with ASEAN:
Cooperation with ASEAN will help in stabilising relations with China.Overcoming limitations of the lack of progress in the SAARC. Accords signed with ASEAN may contribute to possibilities of cooperation not only between India and the ASEAN but also between ASEAN and India’s neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

6. Reinforcing Sub-Regional Cooperation:
Finally, ASEAN-India dialogue will also help in reinforcing India’s efforts in sub-regional economic cooperation like the BIMST-EC (Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation) and Mekong Ganga Cooperation in which India and five ASEAN nations namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand are associated.


Published date : 22 Sep 2009 05:22PM

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