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Day 87 – Q 1.What are India’s strategic and economic interests in the ASEAN? What measures have been taken for increasing outreach to the ASEAN countries? Examine.

1. What are India’s strategic and economic interests in the ASEAN? What measures have been taken for increasing outreach to the ASEAN countries? Examine. 

आसियान में भारत के सामरिक और आर्थिक हित क्या हैं? आसियान देशों की ओर आउटरीच बढ़ाने के लिए क्या उपाय किए गए हैं? जांच करें।


Relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of India’s  foreign policy and the foundation of it’s 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. 


  • The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. 
  • India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is 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.
  • In this regard, India’s strategic and economic interests in ASEAN are as discussed below:
  • ASEAN, as a regional grouping based on consensus, has worked tirelessly over 50 years to help secure peace, progress and prosperity in the region. India, therefore, places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region. 
  • Consequently, Maritime cooperation in terms of connectivity, safety and security has gained high attention. For example, to develop connectivity through water, ASEAN and India are working on the Kaladan MultiModal Transit Transport Project.
  • Partnership with ASEAN nations might help India counter the growing presence of China and its string of pearls as ASEAN is seen as the most successful regional organisation next only to the EU. Further, the conflict in South China sea can be utilised by India to its advantage.
  • India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner. India’s trade with ASEAN stands at US$ 81.33 billion, which is approx. 10.6% of India’s overall trade. India’s exports to ASEAN stand at 11.28% of total exports.
  • India-Asean ties are based on 3 Cs–Culture, Connectivity and Commerce where  Connecting India’s North-eastern states with ASEAN becomes crucial for India.

ASEAN’s indispensability in India’s ‘Act East’ policy has led to various measures to increase outreach towards ASEAN countries which are discussed below:

  • There has been a shift in emphasis with India moving away from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and asserting its centrality in the evolving geography of the Indo-Pacific. 
  • ASEAN-India connectivity is a priority for India as also the ASEAN countries. While India has made considerable progress in implementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Project, issues related to increasing the maritime and air connectivity between ASEAN and India and transforming the corridors of connectivity into economic corridors are under discussion. 
  • India has extensively contributed to the ASEAN-India Fund, to support implementation of the ASEAN-India Plans of Action, which envisage cooperation in a range of sectors as well as capacity building programmes in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation. 
  • 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.

There have been contentions in the India-Asean paradigm with – 

  • ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India continues to punch below its weight in the region, especially compared to its other Dialogue partners.
  • India’s capacity to provide development assistance, market access, and security guarantees remains limited.
  • India’s interest in ASEAN as a multilateral forum remains lackluster as it continues to privilege bilateral partnerships to further its own interests.
  • The three Cs of commerce, connectivity, and culture have been highlighted but a more granular perspective is needed in terms of a forging a forward-looking approach.


India’s geostrategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region depend on India’s bilateral and multilateral engagements with the countries in the region. While India and ASEAN have been very ambitious in articulating the potential of their partnership, they have been much less effective in operationalizing their ideas. The need now is for both sides to focus on functional cooperation and make the idea of India-ASEAN partnership more exciting.

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