India at ASEAN Summit 2023: Why it Matters? and What to Expect?

India at ASEAN Summit 2023: Why it Matters? and What to Expect?

ASEAN, which stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a regional intergovernmental organization. Southeast Asian leaders are gathering for a summit to discuss various regional issues, including Myanmar’s civil strife, disputes in the South China Sea, and the United States-China rivalry. Before going into depth, let’s first understand what ASEAN is. It’s History? Its significance, etc.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN, is a regional intergovernmental organization that has played a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of Southeast Asia for over half a century. Established on August 8, 1967, ASEAN has evolved into a significant player in the international arena, promoting peace, stability, and economic growth. In this article, we will delve into the history and significance of ASEAN and explore why this organization is essential for India’s strategic interests.

History of ASEAN:

The origins of ASEAN can be traced back to a period of political and economic turbulence in Southeast Asia during the 1960s. The founding members of ASEAN, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, recognized the need for a regional organization to promote cooperation, resolve disputes, and ensure economic development.

The Bangkok Declaration, signed on August 8, 1967, marked the birth of ASEAN. The declaration emphasized non-interference principles in each other’s internal affairs, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation in politics, economics, and socio-cultural aspects. Over the years, ASEAN expanded its membership to include ten Southeast Asian nations, with Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia joining later.

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Significance of ASEAN:

Regional Peace and Stability: One of the primary goals of ASEAN is to maintain peace and stability in Southeast Asia. The organization’s commitment to conflict resolution and diplomacy has contributed to the region’s relative strength, fostering an environment conducive to economic growth.

Economic Cooperation: ASEAN has been instrumental in promoting economic integration among member countries. The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 aimed to create a single market and production base, making Southeast Asia an attractive destination for trade and investment.

Cultural and Social Exchange: ASEAN has fostered cultural and social exchange among member countries, promoting understanding and cooperation among diverse cultures and traditions. This artistic dialogue has helped create a sense of community and shared identity among Southeast Asian nations.

Diplomatic and Strategic Relations: ASEAN’s engagement with major powers, including the United States, China, and India, has elevated its role in international diplomacy. The organization has been a platform for dialogue and cooperation on regional and global issues.

Is India a member of ASEAN?

India is not a member of ASEAN; however, it maintains close relations with the organization and participates in various ASEAN-related forums and dialogues.

Why is ASEAN important in India?

India’s engagement with ASEAN is guided by its “Look East” and “Act East” policies, emphasizing stronger ties with Southeast Asian nations. Here’s why ASEAN is crucial for India:

Economic Opportunities: ASEAN is one of the fastest-growing economic regions globally. Strengthening trade and investment links with ASEAN countries offers India significant economic opportunities. India is a dialogue partner of ASEAN and actively participates in forums like the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area.

Strategic Importance: Southeast Asia is strategically located at the crossroads of major maritime routes. Deepening ties with ASEAN nations is vital for India’s maritime security and access to sea lanes. It also supports India’s efforts in countering piracy and promoting naval cooperation.

Cultural and People-to-People Ties: India shares historical and cultural ties with several ASEAN nations. Enhanced cultural and people-to-people exchanges strengthen these connections, fostering goodwill and understanding.

Multilateral Diplomacy: ASEAN provides India with a platform for multilateral diplomacy. India’s participation in forums like the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) enables it to engage with significant powers and address regional security challenges.

Balancing Regional Influence: As ASEAN’s stature in global affairs grows, India’s engagement with the organization allows it to balance the influence of major regional powers. It promotes India as a responsible and cooperative partner in Southeast Asia.

Strengths and Challenges of ASEAN

Strengths of ASEAN:

1. Regional Influence: ASEAN commands significant influence on Asia-Pacific trade, politics, and security matters, pooling the collective strength of its member nations.

2. Demographic Dividend: With a population of approximately 655 million as of July 2019, ASEAN represents 8.5% of the world’s population, providing a substantial workforce.

3. Economic Hub: ASEAN is a central global hub for manufacturing and trade and one of the fastest-growing consumer markets worldwide. It ranks as the 7th largest economy globally and is projected to become the fourth-largest economy by 2050. The region boasts the third-largest labor force globally, following China and India.

4. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): ASEAN has established several free trade agreements, including those with Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) further enhances trade relations.

5. Exporting Powerhouse: ASEAN ranks as the fourth-largest exporting region globally, contributing 7% of global exports.

6. Regional Stability: ASEAN has promoted regional stability by developing norms and fostering a neutral environment for addressing shared challenges.

Challenges within ASEAN:

1. Economic and Social Imbalances: Economic and social disparities exist among ASEAN member states, leading to regional imbalances. Disparities in GDP per capita range from Singapore’s high per capita GDP to Cambodia’s much lower figure.

2. Resource Constraints: Less developed ASEAN countries need more resources to implement regional initiatives and commitments.

3. Diverse Political Systems: ASEAN consists of member states with varying political systems, including democracies, communist regimes, and authoritarian governments.

4. South China Sea Dispute: Disagreements within ASEAN have arisen over issues like the South China Sea, exposing rifts within the organization.

5. Human Rights Issues: ASEAN has struggled to reach a consensus on human rights concerns, such as the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

6. Inconsistent Response to China: ASEAN’s response to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea needs a unified approach, causing divisions among member states.

7. Emphasis on Consensus: The emphasis on consensus sometimes hinders decision-making, as complex problems may be avoided instead of addressed.

8. Lack of Enforcement Mechanism: ASEAN needs a central mechanism to enforce compliance with its agreements and commitments.

9. Inefficient Dispute Resolution: ASEAN faces challenges in settling disputes efficiently in economic and political spheres.

ASEAN’s strengths are its regional influence, demographic potential, economic significance, and trade agreements. However, it faces challenges related to economic and social disparities, political diversity, regional disputes, and difficulties in reaching consensus and enforcing compliance.

Leadership and Organization of ASEAN

When was ASEAN established, and who are its founding members?

ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967. Its founding members were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Who is the head of ASEAN?

ASEAN operates on a rotating chairmanship system. Each member country takes on the role of the ASEAN Chair for a specific year. During their tenure, the country’s leader holding the chairmanship is the de facto head.

Who is the chairman of ASEAN?

The chairman of ASEAN changes each year, depending on the rotating chairmanship. The ASEAN Chair for 2023 is Brunei Darussalam.

What is the motto of ASEAN?

The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.” It emphasizes the unity and shared aspirations of ASEAN member countries.

What principles and rules guide ASEAN’s decision-making process?

ASEAN operates based on principles of non-interference in each member state’s domestic affairs and consensus-based decision-making. This means that even one member can veto unfavorable decisions or proposals.

Why are Southeast Asian leaders gathering for a summit?

Southeast Asian leaders are gathering for a summit to discuss various regional issues, including Myanmar’s civil strife, disputes in the South China Sea, and the United States-China rivalry.

What are some key issues facing ASEAN at the summit of 2023?

Key issues at the ASEAN summit -2023 include:

The Myanmar crisis.

Tensions in the South China Sea.

The United States-China rivalry.

How many ASEAN Summits held so far?

42 summits held so far – 2023 summit is the 43rd one

Is Indian Prime Minister attending the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, and who invited him?

Yes, Indian Prime Minister Modi is attending the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, and he was invited by the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

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