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Asean & India • Past, Present & Future

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ASEAN Official Logo
ASEAN Official Logo

To mark the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-India dialogue partnership and the 10th anniversary of ASEAN-India Summit-level partnership, India hosted the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on 20th-21st December, 2012. The theme of the summit was ‘ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity’.


  • India declined to get associated with ASEAN in the 1960s when full membership was offered even before the grouping was formed.
  • It is only with the formulation of the Look-East policy in the last decade (1992), India had started giving this region due importance in the foreign policy.
  • India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992, which was upgraded to full dialogue partnership in 1996.
  • Since 2002, we have had annual Summits with ASEAN. The first ASEAN-India Business Summit was held at New Delhi in October 2002. The then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee addressed this meet and since then this business summit has become an annual feature.

Recent Past

  • At the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in October, 2009, India announced a contribution of USD 50 million to the ASEAN-India Co-operation Fund to support ASEAN-India projects across the range of sectors.
  • The ASEAN-India Trade-in-Goods Agreement signed in August 2009 at the ASEAN-India Economic Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok, became fully operational from August 2011 when the process of ratification by all the ASEAN countries was completed.
  • The 10th ASEAN-India Summit was held in Cambodia on 19th-20th November, 2012.
  • In 2011-12, the total trade between ASEAN-India increased by 37% to reach USD 79.86 billion thereby surpassing the set trade target of USD 70 billion by 2012, ahead of time.
  • Operationalising of the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) in goods between ASEAN-India last year, both sides were engaged in widening the base of the pact by including services and investments.
  • Besides FTA with ASEAN, India is negotiating similar market opening pacts with members of the grouping. India has already implemented FTA with Singapore and Malaysia and is negotiating with Indonesia and Thailand in this regard. The FTA would also pave the way for discussions on a regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) that ASEAN plans to seal with its six key trade partners, which include India.


  • ASEAN-India ties have touched a new high with the Dialogue Partnership having been elevated to a Strategic Partnership during the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, 2012, in New Delhi.
  • ASEAN-India (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) finalised the much-awaited free trade agreement (FTA) in services and investments. This move is likely to boost trade to $100 billion by 2015. At present, trade between India and ASEAN stands at $80 billion.
  • ‘Comprehensive partnership’ as it now includes trade in services and investment along with the goods free trade agreement (FTA).
  • ‘Strategic partnership’ because it encompasses the whole spectrum of political and security, economic, sociocultural and development cooperation.
  • The agreements with the 10-member ASEAN would follow an 8 + 1 + 1 format, which means there would be three separate agreements:
    • First with eight ASEAN members,
    • Second with Indonesia , and
    • Third with Philippines.


ASEAN and six partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) will start first-round talks on the ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)’ next year, which are expected to form the world’s economic bloc in 2015.


  • It is understood that the market access opening by ASEAN to India would be lesser than their commitments with Australia and New Zealand. This lower level of ambition points to lack of understanding, giving rise to apprehensions in ASEAN countries, which must be addressed to take bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015. (As Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong quotes,”It is a pity that India cannot move at a fast pace. If India can achieve one to two per cent growth more and sustain that for the next 10 to 15 years, it will be great and you will get back hundred times of that. There is so much more potential that India could achieve if it is able to overcome political difficulties. I know it is not an easy to do. It is a tremendous effort although India has moved ahead on retail and now on banking. There is a huge potential and if only it could be allowed to happen.”)
  • ASEAN-India partnership is important to India as she looks eastward to tap the economic dynamism while ASEAN-India partnership is important to ASEAN due to:
    • India’s strategic position would serve as an important bridge across the East and South-East Asia and Oceania on the one hand and South, Central and West Asia on the other.
    • India is also very special for the ASEAN due to India’s geographical positioning and historical and cultural linkages within South Asia and beyond, which includes West Asia and Central Asia as well.
  • It will be wrong to say that India is more competitive in service sectors compared to ASEAN. This can be appreciated from the fact that:
    • Any business entity importing a service from any country would not do so unless it is a necessity to import and it contributes to the enhancement of business profits in the importing country. In this sense, even if ASEAN imports from India more services than its exports of services to India, it is a win-win situation for businesses on both sides.
    • Further, there are various service sectors where ASEAN countries have a competitive edge over their Indian counterparts: construction services, engineering services, shipping and transportation, services etc.
  • Finally, it is laudable that ASEAN-India had framed a new paradigm by elevating the relationship to a strategic partnership and by concluding negotiations on free trade agreement in services and investment.

Evaluate yourself. ANSWER ME!!!

Q 1: Evaluate the ASEAN-India relations?
Q 2: Describe the level of India’s engagement with ASEAN and present insights into the way forward for ASEAN-India relations?
Q 3: ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity. Discuss?


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