Home Commentaries & Articles 24th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

24th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

ASEAN-India senior officials’ meeting is an annual secretary-level meeting. It is co-chaired by Secretary (East) from the Indian side and a counterpart Secretary from the Country Coordinator. This year, the Country Coordinator is Singapore. Other official participants in the meeting include senior Officials of the remaining nine ASEAN Member States.

This annual meeting is held in the first half of the year, usually in April. The meeting discusses the ASEAN-India Cooperation and is alternately hosted in Delhi and the capital of the country coordinator. This year, Secretary (East), Shri Saurabh Kumar co-chaired the 24th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ Meeting along with the Permanent Secretary of Singapore H.E. Mr. Albert Chua, on the 15th of June 2022 in New Delhi. The meeting witnessed the participation of Senior Officials from the other nine ASEAN Member States.

SOM reviewed the strategic partnership shared by ASEAN and India and also discussed its future prospects. Since India and ASEAN are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Dialogue Relations this year, therefore the SOM leaders made their assessment of the progress of cooperation under all three pillars of Partnership – political-security, economic and socio-cultural.

The 24th Annual Meeting also reiterated the steps for the further implementation of the ASEAN-India ‘Plan of Action’ (2021-2025). The two sides also reciprocated dialogues on regional and international issues of mutual interest which included the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recovery.

Secretary (East) Shri Saurabh Kumar welcomed the effective contributions and continued support of Singapore in the strengthening of ASEAN-India Relations as the Country Coordinator for this year. Underlining the central role of ASEAN in India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, he further emphasised the implementation of the ASEAN-India ‘Joint Statement on Cooperation on ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific’ (AOIP) to boost the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership. The ASEAN side also appreciated India’s support of ASEAN and ASEAN-led architecture in the area.

A Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (SAIFMM) was conducted from 16 to 17 June 2022 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations. In recognition of this milestone, the year 2022 is being celebrated as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year as was announced by ASEAN and Indian leaders at the 18th ASEAN-India Summit in October 2021.

The SAIFMM was co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. Foreign Ministers of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and representatives of Foreign Ministers from Lao PDR, Philippines, and Thailand along with the Secretary-General of ASEAN also participated in the meeting. All the ministers together reviewed the status of the ASEAN-India Partnership and set out the path for the coming fourth decade of this significant relationship. The meeting included dialogues around key focus areas of Covid-19 & Health, Trade & Commerce, Connectivity- both physical and digital, Education & Capacity Building, as well as the implementation of ASEAN-India’s ‘Joint Statement on Cooperation on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ (AOIP). The Foreign Ministers also reciprocated views on required regional and international developments as well as post-pandemic economic recovery. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ and ASEAN Secretary-General also called on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi.

During this official visit, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, ASEAN Secretary-General and Representatives of Foreign Ministers along with Dr. Jaishankar will address the Ministerial Session of the twelfth edition of ‘Delhi Dialogue’ (DDXII) which focuses on 30 years of ASEAN-India relations with the theme ‘Building Bridges in the Indo-Pacific’ as reported by the MEA. Delhi Dialogue is India’s premier annual Track 1.5 Dialogue and it aims to boost ASEAN-India relations in the context of the contemporary global and regional scenarios. It was launched in the year 2009.

Along with the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar had a series of bilateral dialogues with his counterparts from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

During EAM’s meeting with the Foreign Minister II of Brunei, Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof on the 16th of June, both ministers reviewed the progress in bilateral relations. They agreed that cooperation should further be enhanced in the fields of trade and investment, hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, space, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. 

During his meeting with the Indonesian counterpart H.E. Mrs. Retno Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, EAM held the 7th Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) on 17 June 2022. Both the ministers reviewed the bilateral relations and discussed the way ahead for further strengthening the India-Indonesia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as per a report by the MEA. Indonesia and India also signed the “Agreement on exemption from visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and official/service passports”. There was also the exchange of “MoU between the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India and National Narcotics Board of Indonesia on combating illicit trafficking in Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors”, and “MoU between National Sugar Institute, Kanpur and Politeknic Perkebunan LPP, Yogyakarta”. EAM expressed solidarity with Indonesia for its Chairmanship of the G20 and supported its priorities and both discussed key issues relating to the Indo-Pacific.

EAM Shri Jaishankar also met Dato Sri Saifuddin Abdullah, Foreign Minister of Malaysia on 17 June and both exchanged notes for mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates. The discussions centred around imparting fresh momentum to India-Malaysia relations with a focus on economic and trade ties. They also agreed to hold the next Joint Commission Meeting in Malaysia. 

While EAM met Singapore’s Foreign Minister, H.E. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan on 15 June and discussed diverse aspects of the multifaceted ties between the two countries, he also had a wide-ranging conversation on global geopolitical challenges and developments in the region. 

As per a report by the MEA, Shri Jaishankar also met Thailand’s Special Envoy of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H.E. Ms Pornpimol Kanchanalak on 16 June. EAM assured her of India’s full support during Thailand’s Chairmanship of BIMSTEC.

EAM and Foreign Minister of Vietnam H.E. Mr. Bui Thanh Son on 17 June together launched the logo for the celebration of 50 years of diplomatic ties between India and Vietnam. Both also had a bilateral meeting which was held at the new Chancery building of the Embassy of Vietnam. After the meeting, an MoU on cybersecurity between CERT-In, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India and VNCERT, Ministry of Information and Communications, Vietnam, was exchanged.

An important aspect of the ASEAN-India summit, the Delhi Dialogue was held on the 17th of June. This was the twelfth edition of the dialogues, wherein, while addressing the gathering at the Delhi Dialogue XII, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi praised the theme of the dialogue ‘Building bridges in the Indo Pacific’ and said, “We need to build bridges in all regions including in the Indo-Pacific. Building bridges means narrowing gaps, overcoming differences, connecting countries and improving relations.”

“However, we won’t be able to build bridges if there is no trust among each other. We will not be able to build bridges if the trust deficit persists. Therefore one thing we need before we build bridges is to nurture strategic trust to manage the strategic competition,” she said.

She also spoke on the maritime cooperation between India and ASEAN and said that the cooperation should be the future of ASEAN-India unity. 

The year 2022 was designated as ASEAN-India Friendship Year by the leaders in October 2021. In this meeting, both sides have taken stock of calendar activities to commemorate the year 2022 as ASEAN-India Friendship Year as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Partnership. India began formal engagements with ASEAN as a “Sectoral Dialogue Partner” in 1992 and subsequently as a “Dialogue Partner” in the year 1996. At the 20-year ‘Commemorative Summit Meeting’ in New Delhi (December 2012), the Dialogue Partnership between India and ASEAN was further elevated to a ‘Strategic Partnership’.

The meetings were held in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and friendship and underlined the importance India associates with its relations with ASEAN, as exemplified through its Act East Policy and the centrality of ASEAN in its vision for the wider, more inclusive Indo-Pacific. Engagement with ASEAN is a multi-level interaction process and as reported by the MEA, indeed “the strong historical and cultural ties between India and ASEAN continue to provide a solid foundation for the ASEAN-India partnership as it enters its fourth decade.”