India-ASEAN Summit: Ramifications

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General awareness on current topics is essential as not only you will be getting questions on GK in various MBA entrance exams but it will be useful for Essay writing test and WAT also. 
 
Today, you will read General Awareness Topic: “India-ASEAN Summit: Ramifications” 
 
Enhancing relations with ASEAN has been central to India’s “Look East Policy” and there has been steady progress in the relationship with ASEAN countries since the policy was initiated in 1991. India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992, and a full dialogue partner in 1996. Since 2002, we have had annual Summits with ASEAN. After the Commemorative Summit on December 2012 in Delhi, India has become a strategic partner of ASEAN. 
 
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 December 20-21, 2012. The theme of the summit was ‘ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity’. 
 
Summit marked a significant watershed in India-ASEAN relations mostly on trade and commerce. Both finalized Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which will lead to the elimination of tariffs on some 4,000 products including electronics, chemicals, machinery and textiles. Of these 4,000 products, 3,200 products will have duties reduced by the end of 2013, while duties on the remaining 800 products will be lowered to zero or almost zero by the end of 2016.
 
The main exports by India to the ASEAN region include meat, edible vegetables and fruit, cereals, cotton, tobacco, mineral fuels, salt, sulphur, organic chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, copper, electrical and electronic equipment, and machinery. 
 
The main imports by India from the ASEAN region include mineral fuels, animal and vegetable fats, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, rubber products, wood products, iron and steel, wearing apparel, electrical and electronic equipment, machinery, ships, boats and floating structures, optical and photographic equipment, and musical instruments. With the implementation of the trade in goods agreement, most of these goods will be granted duty-free entry to the markets of the partner countries in the ASEAN region as well as in India.
 
However, the ties were elevated to a strategic partnership and additionally, ASEAN and India committed to strengthening cooperation to ensure maritime security and freedom of navigation, and safety of sea lanes of communication. These commitments were announced against the backdrop of tension with China in the South China Sea, which has become a potential military flashpoint due to overlapping claims of Beijing and some ASEAN nations, vying for gas and oil reserves.
 
The summit ended with the successful conclusion of the negotiation on ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements, which will facilitate further economic integration between the two. Notably, India-ASEAN trade has grown over ten times since the annual summits were launched. In fact, the Agreements will create favourable conditions for the two sides to negotiate the Regional Partnership, which intends to foster linkages in the fields of air, sea and land transport, digital technology and the building of a Mekong-India Economic Corridor.
 
ASEAN-India trade has been growing at over 22 % during the last 6 years and, in fact, trade between India and ASEAN in 2011-2012 has increased by more than 37% and the trade now is $79 billion. However, expansion in ASEAN-India trade is still dwarfed by ASEAN’s trade with other economic partners, most notably  with  China. 
 
Last year ASEAN-China two way trades grew 23.9% to U.S. $362.85 billion, according to the Chinese government. By contrast, Sino-Indian trade in 2011 was just U.S. $73.9 billion, albeit that was a nearly 20% increase from the year before.
 
During the summit, leaders of India and ASEAN articulated their commitment to promoting private sector engagement, encouraging business-to-business relations, and collaboration in small and medium enterprises sector. Moreover, they mentioned the value which they attached to strengthening cooperation in the agriculture and energy sectors. The parties also emphasized the importance to increasing connectivity between ASEAN and India.  However, in order to take the relationship between two economic powerhouses, greater interaction between their people, students, scientists, academics, intellectuals, media, entrepreneurs, agriculturists and artists is required. 
 
The 2012 summit elevated the relationship. Increase in security and military cooperation between India and ASEAN can be comprehended as a natural course of progression of such a relationship. Nonetheless, China’s growing assertiveness cannot be ignored as an external determinant of growing security cooperation between ASEAN and India, both parties immensely concerned with China’s rise in Asia in particular and in the world in general.
 
Of late, India has gained an important place in US allies due to increasing clout of China. The Summit signaled India’s own re-orientation strategy. Undoubtedly, as the US’s pivot to Asia was seen as a move to counter China, the ASEAN-India strategic relationship can also be construed as having been formalized with similar considerations in mind. Interestingly, ASEAN and India remain both dependent and wary of China. 
 
Connectivity was another major point stressed during the summit. Undoubtedly, efficient communication and transportation remains a crucial element in the development of a region. India and ASEAN can take up connectivity to much higher levels than what currently exists. Several projects are in the process of being finalized. The North-East region of India will benefit immensely from increased connectivity and cooperation with ASEAN. However, handicaps of unmanageable terrain and political unrest act as impediments to faster and smoother connectivity of India and the ASEAN. Swift resolution of local unrests will enable better connectivity possibilities, which will lead to enormous economic prosperity of the ASEAN and India in general and for the North-East region of India in particular. 
 
Moreover, when most of the developed western world is passing through a slowdown, India and ASEAN can help each other in elevating the level of investment as well as production and economic activity. Apart from trade and commerce, other common points of engagement include WTO, terrorism, R&D, UN reforms, agriculture where India and ASEAN can work together and help each other in the overall growth and development. 
 

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