The 34th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations concluded in Thailand’s capital Bangkok. The conference explained the ASEAN policy for the Indo-Pacific region. Members of this organization have collectively released a vision document – The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific region has become geopolitically a new stage of diplomacy and conflict between the various world powers in recent years. Also, this area has become important due to its location. Currently 75 percent of world trade is imported and exported from this region and the ports connected with the Indo-Pacific region are among the busiest ports in the world. 60 per cent of world GDP is contributed by this region. The region remains sensitive to both consumer and producer nations regarding energy trade (petroleum products).
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations- ASEAN)
- ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.
- Currently, ten countries are members of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Its headquarters are located in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
- India and ASEAN countries are struggling to take their bilateral trade to the target of $ 100 billion.
For this, among other things, there is a need to focus on improving land, sea and air connectivity, so that the cost of movement of goods and services can be cut.
ASEAN Goals and Objectives
- Promote socio-economic and cultural development
- Promote mutual cooperation and treaty.
- To facilitate training and research.
- Development of agriculture and industry and related areas.
- Supplementary relationships with international and regional organizations.
- Policy of various countries for Indo-Pacific region
The United States and Japan are emphasizing the Free and Open Indo-Pacific-FOIP policy. Australia has also emphasized the policy of safe, open and prosperous region for the region in its vision document released in 2017. China is also trying to increase its influence in the region through the Belt and Road Initiative. Along with these countries, India has also clarified its policy for the Indo-Pacific region in the Shangri-La talks in the year 2018. India has clarified its policy some time ago, India has emphasized that India’s policy is not against anyone and India wishes peace, security, stability and rule-based system through its policy.
ASEAN Policy for the Indo-Pacific
The Indo-Pacific region has become important in the last few years due to geopolitical and economic reasons. It is in this context that various nations are trying to improve their interests. It is worth noting that 10 member countries of ASEAN are significantly located in the region. But these countries are not able to face China and other challenges on a personal level. Some political events in this area have also proved the above fact-
- There is a dispute with countries like Philippines, Vietnam etc. on the South China Sea with China. In this case, China has often taken an arbitrary approach which has damaged the interests of other countries.
- The trade war between the US and China has also affected the economy of these countries. As a result, Singapore’s economic growth rate has declined.
- Indonesia has also emerged as an economically strong country and is exploring its important role in the region. At the same time, it does not want to play the role of hanger in America’s FOIP (Free and Open Indo-pacific) and China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) policy. At the same time, Indonesia is not such a large economic power that it can play an important role in this field on its own strength. It may be noted that Indonesia is a major member country of the ASEAN Organization. Therefore, by making the role of this organization important for the Indo-Pacific region, it is trying to enhance its interest.
In view of the above facts, ASEAN has clarified its policy for the Indo-Pacific. It has taken more than a year to form a consensus of all countries on this vision. However, this policy is non-binding on member states and is open for discussion. This vision document of ASEAN advocates the development of the region on the basis of Rule Based Order. For the development of the region, ASEAN has chosen four areas – maritime cooperation, connectivity, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (which are to be completed by the year 2030) and economic cooperation between different countries.
ASEAN member countries are facing various challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, mainly in relation to China’s imperialist policy and the trade war between the US-China. But in this vision document, no disputed issues have been included, as well as on the basis of cooperation, not on any rival basis, but the development of this area has been talked about. This stand of ASEAN can provide positive direction to the relations between ASEAN countries and other nations. It is to be known that India also does not want to be involved in a rival role with China in this area, so this ASEAN stand will also be important in promoting relations between India and ASEAN countries.
India and ASEAN
This vision document of ASEAN also emphasizes cooperation of countries with similar views through cooperation. India has already been emphasizing on the policy of free, open, inclusive and rule-based Indo-Pacific region, so it is natural for India to support the ASEAN policy for this region. Between India and ASEAN, there are several areas in which cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region can be increased by working such as – IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), Mekong Collaboration Framework etc. India is giving more importance to the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and BIMSTEC keeping in mind the ASEAN countries. It is known that Indonesia and Singapore are close to the coast of Bay of Bengal. India can invite these countries to be a part of BIMSTEC and establish greater cooperation, connectivity and security in the Gulf region. India can also use the Sabang port in Sumatra, Indonesia to increase trade with Indonesia. Maritime cooperation and connectivity are also areas in which India and ASEAN can work together. Connectivity and integration between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean countries is increasing. In such a situation, these countries will require huge investment and tireless efforts for infrastructure which includes physical, institutional and people-to-people interaction. India is already working on initiatives such as the Sagarmala project, the trilateral highway from India to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor AAGC of India and Japan. The above efforts will provide significant support for the ASEAN Connectivity Plan which is proposed by the year 2025 (Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity-MPAC).
The Indian Pacific region has emerged as a center of political-economic activities in the present time, in which Sino-US are making efforts at their level to fulfill their interests. But the ASEAN countries which are mainly related to this region had not yet clarified their policy for the region. But in the recent ASEAN conference, ASEAN countries have presented a vision document regarding this area which clarifies ASEAN’s stand. This document will provide a vision to ASEAN countries by which these countries will be able to fulfill their interests by cooperation, as well as to try to resist China’s aggressive policies together. China is already a challenge for the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, etc. This challenge remains more serious in the South China Sea and the Economic Zone. At the same time, America also wants to strengthen its position in the region, for which it is in a state of tension with China on various issues. In the light of the above facts, ASEAN’s Vision Document is important because it advocates playing the main role on the basis of economic cooperation in the region rather than being someone’s hanger. It is also keen to increase cooperation with such countries whose ideas are relevant for the development of this region. India has already talked about the development of the Indo-Pacific region on the basis of cooperation, so this ASEAN policy for India can open the doors of possibilities at the economic and diplomatic level.
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