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Read Current Affairs Topic: ASEAN and Its Impact on India
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional inter-governmental organization of ten countries in the Southeast Asia. The ten members of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has emerged as one of the most successful and significant regional blocks in the world in contrast to the associations like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Bay of Bengal Initiative For Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which are still struggling to make themselves relevant.
The latter half of the 20th century witnessed coming up of several regional blocs across the world and now almost every country in the world is a member of one or more organizations. These blocs were formed for variety of reasons like economics and trade, defence, geopolitical compulsions etc. However, the trade was the most common factor behind the formation of regional blocs. Globalization wave during the latter half of the 20th century also necessitated the emergence of these blocs.
India also played a very constructive in establishment of SAARC but it never developed into a meaningful organization due to not so good bilateral relations among the member nations. In 1991, the former Soviet Union, which was a mainstay of India, collapsed because of which India had to look for other partners. Consequently, the PV Narsimha Rao government initiated Look East Policy and relations between India and ASEAN got a boost. Later, Narendra Modi government upgraded the Look East Policy to Act East Policy and the strengthening of Indo-ASEAN relations continued.
India and ASEAN are observing 25 years of their Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership throughout 2017 by undertaking a wide range of activities, both in India and through Indian missions in ASEAN member states, which culminated in a Commemorative Summit on the theme "Shared Values, Common Destiny.” From January 19-30, 2018, New Delhi will host the Indo-ASEAN summit and for that matter the national capital will get a face lift.
The Indo-ASEAN relations have been found to be complementary in nature instead of being competitive one. In the following areas, enhanced the mutual cooperation is benefiting both India and ASEAN:
- Terrorism, radicalism, extreme violence are common security threats in India and ASEAN members. Both India and ASEAN strive to ward off such threats through active security cooperation.
- India as well as ASEAN members, both the concerned about the imperialistic gestures shown by China. The whole of South China Sea is claimed by China as its exclusive economic zone. It also lays claim over large parts of Indian Territory. India and ASEAN cooperation will help in dealing with the challenges posed by China.
- With the combined GDP of around USD 2.8 trillion (2015), ASEAN is a very lucrative market for Indian exports. India's trade with ASEAN has increased to US$ 70 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 65 billion in 2015-16. India's export to ASEAN has increased to US$ 30 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 25 billion in 2015-16.
- ASEAN-India connectivity is a priority for India as also the ASEAN countries. India has made considerable progress in implementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Project. A possible extension to India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam is also under consideration.
- India has been cooperating with ASEAN by way of implementation of various projects in the fields of Agriculture, Science & Technology, Space, Environment & Climate Change, Human Resource Development, Capacity Building, New and Renewable Energy, Tourism, People-to-People contacts and Connectivity etc.
- Active cooperation with ASEAN will directly help in the development of north-eastern regions of the country.
The Indo-ASEAN relations have matured enough over the last 25 years and both the entities now rely on each other on strategic issues. However, India needs to engage more aggressively with ASEAN so that its presence as well as need is felt in dealing with all sorts of challenges faced by the region.
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