Current Affairs

India and ASEAN to expand trade despite RCEP walkout

Published on Nov-24-2020

·         India and ASEAN to expand trade despite RCEP walkout- the Hindu- 13th November

·         Cohesive, responsive ASEAN must for security, growth in region: PM - The Indian Express- 13th November

(GS 2- India and its neighborhood- relations, Regional groupings affecting India’s interests)

In News

·         17th ASEAN-India Summit was held virtually via videoconferencing amidst COVID 19 pandemic.

About Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)


o   ASEAN came into existence with the signing of Bangkok Declaration in 1967.

o   Founding fathers of ASEAN were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

o   Later Brunei Darussalam in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997 and finally Cambodia in 1999 joined ASEAN.


o   To promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitate economic, political, security, military, educational and socio-cultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.

Highlights of 17th ASEAN-India Summit


o   India stressed on leveraging strong ASEAN-India ties in the fight against the pandemic.

o   India welcomed ASEAN’s initiatives to fight the pandemic.

o   India committed $1 million to the ASEAN COVID-19 recovery fund.

On trade and investment

o   India called for an early review of ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA).

o   India underlined the importance of diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid economic recovery.

o   Deliberations over ways to increase trade between ASEAN-India despite India’s exit from RCEP Agreement.

Why India walked out of the RCEP Free Trade Agreement in 2019 after negotiations for more than six years?

Ø  It did not address India’s concerns about being flooded by goods from China.

Ø  Issue pertaining to trade deficits.

Ø  Need to protect domestic agricultural and dairy sectors.



On ASEAN’s “Outlook on Indo-Pacific” and India’s “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative”

o   India invited ASEAN countries to cooperate on various pillars of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).

o   Both sides appreciated the similarities between India’s ‘Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative’ and ASEAN’s ‘Outlook on Indo-Pacific’.

On security

o   Issues of regional and global security were discussed.

o   Deliberations focused on the issues of South China Sea and terrorism among others.

o   ASEAN acknowledged India’s contribution in the region towards promoting peace and stability.

o   Both sides committed to adhere to international laws especially UNCLOS for promoting free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of China’s naval aggression.


On Capacity Building

o   ASEAN appreciated India’s capacity-building initiatives including the PhD Fellowship Programme at IITs and setting up of Centres for Excellence in Software Development and Training in CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam).


India- ASEAN Relations

o   ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership stands on a strong foundation of shared geographical, historical and civilizational ties.

o   Strength of Indian-ASEAN relations were on a full display when all ASEAN leaders graced India’s 69th Republic Day Celebrations in 2018.

o   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.

o   From Look East Policy to Act East Policy

o   It has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy.

o   Act East Policy was formally enuniciated at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit  in Myanmar in 2014.

o   Success on India’s Act East Policy will depend upon connectivity projects in North East.

o   This calls for expedition of projects like India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project etc.









Economic cooperation 

Economic cooperation and security integration

Area of Concern

Confined to South East Asia

South East Asia plus East Asia











Political Security Cooperation

o   Faced with growing traditional and non-traditional challenges, politico-security cooperation is a key and an emerging pillar of ASEAN-India relationship.

o   What define the landscape of common security threats to our societies?

o   Rising export of terror.

o   Growing radicalization through ideology of hatred.

o   Spread of extreme violence.

o   India hosted ASEAN Plus military exercise (Force 18) in 2018.

Socio-Cultural Cooperation

o   People to people contact.

o   Students Exchange Programme.

o   Scholarships for ASEAN students for higher education at Nalanda University.

o   Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats.

o   Exchange of Parliamentarians.

o   Participation of ASEAN students in the National Children’s Science Congress.

o   ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series.


o   Exchange of Farmers.

o   ASEAN-India Fellowships for Higher Agricultural Education in India and ASEAN.

o   Exchange of Agriculture Scientists.

o   Training Course on Organic Certification for Fruits and Vegetables etc.

o   ASEAN-India Collaborative R&D Project on Mariculture, Bio-mining and Bioremediation Technologies etc.


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


Some of the prominent projects

o   Space Project envisaging establishment of a Tracking, Data Reception/Data Processing Station in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

o   Upgradation of Telemetry Tracking and Command Station in Biak, Indonesia.

o   Setting up of Centres of Excellence in Software Development & Training in CLMV countries.

o   e-Network for provision of tele-medicine and tele-education in CLMV countries.

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