ASEAN-India strategic partnership: The development on a solid foundation

WVR - Looking back over the past three decades, ASEAN-India relations have made comprehensive developments in all fields. ASEAN plays an important role in India's foreign policy and vice versa, India is also a key partner and a focal point in ASEAN's policy.
ASEAN-India strategic partnership: The development on a solid foundation

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son attended the Special ASEAN - India Foreign Ministers' Meeting (SAIFMM) in New Delhi, India. (Photo: VNA)

From June 16-17, India hosted the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting (SAIFMM) to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations and the 10th Anniversary of Strategic Partnership. Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son led the Vietnamese delegation to attend the SAIFMM and hold a number of bilateral activities in India.

While the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) hosted by the ASEAN Chair is an annual event, SAIFMM was the first ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting hosted by India, in New Delhi. The fact that the Foreign Ministers of 10 ASEAN countries came to India to attend SAIFMM to review the cooperation between ASEAN and India, showed the interest and desire to promote the ASEAN-India relationship from both sides India and ASEAN.

Maturity in stages

At the celebration of the ASEAN - India Year of Friendship 2022 held recently in Jakarta (Indonesia), Indian Ambassador to ASEAN Jayant N. Khobragade said that the ASEAN - India relationship has matured in stages, from field cooperation to comprehensive cooperation, from dialogue partnership to strategic partnership.

That "maturity" has been demonstrated through important milestones, starting with the establishment of the Partnership in 1992, progressing to the Comprehensive Partnership in December 1995, the Senior Partner in 2002 and Strategic Partnership 2012. Today, the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership is developing on a solid foundation.

ASEAN-India cooperation is implemented mainly through the Five-Year Action Plan. The ASEAN - India Foreign Ministers Meeting (PMC) in September 2020 approved the Action Plan for 2021-2025.

The ASEAN-India cooperation projects are funded and implemented mainly through three funds, including the ASEAN - India Cooperation Fund (India has provided more than 11 million USD in the period 1994-2010), the Science Development Fund ASEAN - India Institute of Technology (1 million USD), Green Fund of ASEAN - India (5 million USD).

So far, the two sides have established 30 dialogue mechanisms, including high-level ones and seven ministerial-level meetings. In addition, the two sides also cooperate in dialogue and cooperation frameworks led by ASEAN, such as ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Expanded (AFP) ADMM+) as well as sub-regional cooperation frameworks such as Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC)…

ASEAN-India strategic partnership: The development on a solid foundation
The 18th ASEAN-India Summit on October 18, 2021. (Photo: WVR/Tuan Anh)

ASEAN is central to India's "Act East" policy and broader Indo-Pacific vision. The cohesion of India and ASEAN is completely "natural", as ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi once affirmed. India is a neighbour of ASEAN and has a thousand years of civilization intertwined with a number of ASEAN member states. India has been a strong supporter of ASEAN's central role in solving regional and world problems, while playing an increasingly active role in the regional security architecture.

Attractive commercial corridor

Last October, at the ASEAN-India Business Summit, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar affirmed ASEAN as one of the key hubs for India's global economic engagement and New Delhi wants to renew the level of ambition for relations with ASEAN.

Recognizing the great potential in each other's markets, ASEAN and India are both aiming to promote economic cooperation. Trade cooperation between ASEAN and India has been rapidly increased despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Bilateral trade increased from just $5.8 billion in 1996 to $84.39 billion in 2021.

Indian businesses interested in the ASEAN region are optimistic about the growth potential of the region. More than 90% of these businesses predict revenue growth within the next 12 months. According to the report, in terms of target markets in ASEAN, 61% of businesses surveyed said that they are focusing on expanding their operations in Indonesia because this is the market that offers the best development potential, followed by Vietnam (49%), Malaysia and Singapore (46%).

Gaurav Bhatnagar, Head of Trade and Capital Markets, India and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, said: “ASEAN is one of India's largest trading partners. With its Act East policy, India aims to expand trade with neighboring Eastern countries, affirming its important position in driving future growth in the ASEAN region.”

According to Mr. Gaurav Bhatnagar, IT services, commerce, pharmaceuticals, automotive (especially electric vehicles) and renewable energy are the sectors that present significant export opportunities for Indian companies.

In particular, ASEAN wants India to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) whenever it is ready. Surveying senior executives of 41 companies based in India, 63% of them said their companies intend to increase investment in ASEAN within the next 3-5 years, after the RCEP Agreement has been ratified.

In the context of post-COVID-19 recovery, ASEAN and India clearly feel the need to strengthen cooperation in health, vaccines, climate change and supply chain resilience. From here, the two sides continue to open up new "horizontals" of cooperation for businesses of both sides.

Thus, it is highly expected that ASEAN - India can jointly create a "golden chapter" in economic cooperation, contributing to progress and prosperity for 30% of the world's population.

Vietnam - a bridge to promote multifaceted links between ASEAN-India

In meetings with Vietnamese leaders, Indian leaders repeatedly emphasized that India attaches special importance to Vietnam's increasing role in ASEAN. India hopes that Vietnam will act as a bridge to promote multifaceted links with ASEAN.

In response, Vietnamese leaders highly appreciated the role of ASEAN-India cooperation, expressing that ASEAN and India are long-standing partners and close neighbors, sharing benefits and responsibilities for contributing to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

ASEAN-India strategic partnership: The development on a solid foundation
In the framework of SAIFMM, Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son paid a courtesy call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 16. (Photo: WVR)

Vietnam has a relatively favorable position in connecting India with the rest of ASEAN. During the tenure of ASEAN-India relations coordinator, Vietnam organized a special summit between the leaders of India and the leaders of 10 ASEAN countries. Vietnam has actively contributed to promoting ASEAN-India relations to a new height.

In the current context, Vietnam wishes to promote bilateral cooperation in areas essential for recovery, such as digital transformation and narrowing the digital gap, effectively taking advantage of opportunities and great potential for technical enterprises of ASEAN as well as of India; continue to support ASEAN's efforts to narrow the development gap through the ASEAN Integration Initiative and the Mekong-Ganga cooperation framework, which plays an important role in helping ASEAN promote equitable, sustainable and inclusive development, especially in the face of complex impacts of the pandemics and global challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, population aging, and environmental pollution.

In addition, Vietnam requests India to continue to support and actively contribute to ASEAN's efforts to maintain peace, security and stability in the East Sea, upholding international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, settle disputes by peaceful means, through dialogue and diplomatic processes to ensure that the East Sea is a sea of ​​peace, cooperation and development.

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(Source: WVR/Ha Phuong)