India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) 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. The Act East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented Policy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had 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 her foreign policy and the foundation of its’ 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.
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.
India has made various efforts to create openings and opportunities for her North-East region through various foreign policy initiatives. The North East of India is our gateway to East and South East Asia. In foreign policy terms, the states of the North East are the link between two fundamental pillars of our foreign policy, “Neighbourhood First” and ‘Act East’ policies.
India’s vision for the region that is captured in the 3 Cs–Connectivity, Commerce, and Cultural Commonalities. In partnership with our neighbours and friends to the East, we are working to improve the infrastructure and connectivity in our North Eastern states while also facilitating greater regional integration.
External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar co-chaired the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting along with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand Don Pramudwinai, last week. The Meeting was held virtually and saw the participation of Foreign Ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States and India.
The Meeting reviewed the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership in several areas including maritime cooperation, connectivity, education & capacity building and people-to-people contacts. It reviewed the progress in implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2016-2020). The Meeting also reviewed the preparations for the upcoming 17th ASEAN-India Summit and also the progress in the implementation of key decisions of the Leaders of ASEAN Member States (AMS) and India arrived at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit held in Bangkok in November 2019 and the previous Summits.
The new ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025) was adopted at the Meeting. The Ministers discussed ways to strengthen cooperation to fight COVID-19 pandemic and exchanged views on important regional and international developments.
Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan also participated in the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) held virtually under the Chairmanship of Vietnam.
The 27th ARF Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) exchanged views on international and regional issues. The Minister of State presented India’s perspectives on the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative, the threat of terrorism, maritime issues in the context of UNCLOS framework and cooperation for collective response for COVID-19.
The ARF Ministers adopted three Statements, namely, Enhancing Cooperation to prevent and respond to Infectious Disease Outbreaks; Treatment of Children Recruited by or Associated with Terrorist Groups; and Cooperation in the Field of Security of and in the Use of ICTs in the Context of International Security.
India engages in various ARF activities and initiatives on Maritime Security; Counter Terrorism; Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); and Disaster Relief. Under the ARF activities approved for 2020-21 during the meeting, India will co-chair workshops on International Ship and Port facility Security Code (ISPS Code) and on Implementing United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other international instruments.
Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst