INDIA-ASEAN Relations By: Akash Agrawal
Important Issues Highlighted by PM during the EAS . The two most significant issues highlighted by PM Modi during his address at EAS were: Recommending strongest action against those states that use terrorism as an instrument of state policy and outlining India's principled stand on the South China Sea issue. . PM Modi commented that most countries in the South Asian region were pursuing a peaceful path to economic prosperity "But, there is one country in India's neighbourhood whose competitive advantage rests solely in producing and exporting terrorism." . For India's principled stand on the South China Sea issue, he said that the lanes of communication passing through the sea were "main arteries of global merchandise trade" India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS
ACT EAST POLICY . Why in news? . India's 'Act East' policy, upgraded from the Look East' policy in 2014, serves as a platform for deepening and strengthening its relationship with ASEAN and the East Asian economies. What is Act East? . The Objective of "Act East Policy" is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region including Arunachal Pradesh with other countries in our neighbourhood. The North East of India has been a priority in our Act East Policy (AEP). . India's Act East Policy focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. . The policy which was originally conceived as an economic initiative, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation
. India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia- Pacific region. . Connectivity projects, cooperation in space, S&T and people-to- people exchanges could become a springboard for regional integration and prosperity Steps Undertaken India has pushed a host of trans-national projects that seek to weave the region together, like . The Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo sector of the India- Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is a work in progress and is expected to create a new dynamic in India's multi-faceted ties with the region. . India has set up an Indian mission to the ASEAN in Jakarta, and has set up an ASEAN-India Centre which is housed in New Delhi.
. India shares its expertise in capacity building projects in Southeast Asian countries through the three funds the $50 million ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund; the $5 million ASEAN-India Green Fund; and the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Fund. . India is also set to launch a Tracking and Data Reception Centre in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which would make remote sensing data available from the RESOURCESAT and OCEANSAT for applications in disaster management and mineral exploration for ASEAN countries . The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 has been adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete initiatives and areas of cooperation along the three pillars of political- security, economic and socio-cultural. . The ASEAN-India Agreement on Trade in Service and Investments has entered into force for India and seven ASEAN countries from 1 July 2015.
From Look East to Act east The transformation from "Look East Policy" (LEP) to Act East Policy (AEP) is not merely of terminology. The AEP has gone way far and wider than the LEP. Various crucial features of the policy are: . Under rapidly changing geopolitical realities, defined by the assertive rise of China, AEP has imparted greater vigour to India's ties with ASEAN. Relations, which were stagnating, are again assuming renewed vitality. . India has now recognized that the success of AEP will be determined by its contribution to security and economic development of Northeast India. And thus, many efforts have been in the direction. . The relations with ASEAN now encompass security, strategic, political, counterterrorism, and defence collaboration in addition to economic ties. Cooperation to curb terrorism, especially in face of rising influence of Islamic State has assumed priority
. In terms of economic advances, due to end of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, India is keen to conclude talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. The implementation of the Free Trade Agreement on Investment and Services ASEAN and India in 2016 will promote the development of all member countries. . The policy has sought to significantly expand its geographical coverage beyond ASEAN alone, to include other countries like Japan, Australia, Pacific Island nations, South Korea, and Mongolia. The expanse is much wider than the LEP . India has signed various agreements with Japan and are together collaborating in many projects like constructing a high-speed railway, cooperation on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, as well as joint participation in the Malabar exercises and defence cooperation etc. . The government has also sought to rejuvenate ties with countries that have been neglected in recent years, including Australia, which saw the first visit by an Indian prime minister in 28 years; Fiji (the first visit in 33 years) and Mongolia, which hosted the Indian prime minister for the first time ever.
. In terms of South China Sea, India has firmly articulated its principled position of freedom of navigation, maritime security, expeditious resolution of dispute according to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, developing a Code of Conduct, and settlement through dialogue and peaceful means. . Closer cooperation in combating terrorism, collaborating for peace and stability in the region and promotion of maritime security based on intermational norms and laws are being pursued. . Way forward With 'Make in India' emerging as a key campaign for manufacturing, developing new global value chains in partnership with the economies of ASEAN would bring benefits to both sides. . However, at the same time, with the proximity of these countries to vibrant East Asian supply chains and rising FDI from other investors, India should take care to cement its position in the region
. In Indo Pacific Asia, in the years to come, India would be expected to play a significant role upholding the security and stability of the region, which India needs to get ready for.
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