The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability. The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008. The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, the Political-Security Community, Economic Community, and Socio-Cultural Community.
On 28th October 2021, the 18th ASEAN-India summit was conducted. This year marked the 30 years of the ASEAN-India friendship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually participated and addressed the summit at the invitation of the Sultan of Brunei. The summit covered around 30 mechanisms but the main focus was on the changing dynamics in the Indo-ASEAN cooperation which was raised to a strategic partnership in 2012. The main goal remains to strengthen the association and India’s partnership. Over the years, expansion of education, collaboration among universities, green economies, achieving the sustainable development goals, start-up and impact investment have been the ideas to guide the expansion of the Indo-ASEA partnership and these will be carried further for the next few years as well.
The summit highlighted the progress in strategic relations despite the pandemic. There has been the implementation of various programmes and activities across the three ASEAN Community pillars which have been based on the current Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity dating from 2021to 2025. Through these, the countries will get to explore new areas such as the blue economy for better cooperation and coordination. During the summit, Significant international and regional developments including post-pandemic economic recovery were also discussed. ASEAN centrality and unity have always been an important priority for India, and this can be seen through in India’s Act East Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
During the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “India and ASEAN have had vibrant relations for thousands of years. Their glimpses show our shared values, traditions, languages, texts, architecture, culture, food, and drink. And that is why the unity and centrality of ASEAN have always been an important priority for India.” He further stated that, in 2022, our partnership would complete 30 years. India will also complete 75 years of its independence. I am delighted that we will celebrate this important milestone as ASEAN-India Friendship Year.”
To further strengthen India-ASEAN cultural connectivity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s support for establishing the ASEAN cultural heritage list. Both sides reaffirmed their support for the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) which has guided ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions. The objective is to promote an Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN centrality which is also based on principles like openness, transparency, a rules-based framework, good governance, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit and respect for international law.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the 17th ASEAN-India Summit virtually in November 2020. India and ASEAN have met regularly to hold several dialogues including a summit, ministerial meetings, and senior officials’ meetings. Earlier in August this year, External affairs minister, Dr S Jaishankar also attended the ASEAN-India foreign ministers’ meeting and EAS foreign ministers’ virtually.
Although both sides have been constantly working towards building better relations as well as covering different areas of cooperation their relationship still need more substantive collaboration and 30 years is a good time to deepen the relationship further and prepare for the future together.