13 July 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Asean-India partnership has been remarkably strengthened after President Narendra Modia introduced India’s “Act East Policy” last year. This aims to concretize the “Look East Policy” initiated two decades ago.
India’s foreign policy towards Southeast Asia is driven by increasingly complex regional interdependence and dynamism. India wishes to grasp benefits from the realization of Asean community by the end of this year. Deepening regional integration generates more opportunities for India and Asean to grow together in a wider Asian community.
India’s regional role
India has the second largest population in the world, after China, with a population of 1.25 billion. India has a growing and young population, with more than half of its population under the age of 25. By 2030, India will become the world’s most populous nation.
India has been enjoying high economic performance, with an average growth rate of 7.2 percetn for the past five years. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India is expected to have a GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent for 2015 and 2016, which will make it the world’s fastest growing large economy.
Regional countries will benefit from India’s growing economic power and potentials. With a GDP of US$1.8 billion, India, the world’s fourth largest economy, is certainly a valuable economic partner of Asean.
India has played an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region. Non-traditional security cooperation takes the center stage of the bilateral cooperation.
ASEAN-India economic ties
India and Asean signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in 2004, reached a trade agreement on goods in August 2009, and concluded an agreement on investment and trade in services this month.
India and Asean are moving from intra-regional trade facilitation in goods to the creation of regional production networks through the promotion of trade in services and investment cooperation.
The economies of India and Asean are complementary. India has comparative advantages in information technology, medical tourism, education, and space technology while Asean is strong in the energy sector, automobile industry, and financial services.
India is promoting scientific and technology transfer and encouraging Asean’s private sector to capitalize on India’s “Make in India” policy by exporting their raw materials, parts and components to the Indian markets.
Asean-India security cooperation
International terrorism, trafficking in humans and drugs, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, piracy, and cyber security are key areas of security cooperation between India and Asean.
Strategic cooperation, especially maritime security cooperation, has been advanced to meet new realities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. It is also driven by India’s ambition to play a greater global role as a trading nation and stabilizing force.
Recent maritime cooperation activities include the signing of a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation and coast guard cooperation between India and Vietnam in May. Last month, India’s navy made a rare port visit to Thailand and Cambodia to bolster bilateral defense cooperation.
Asean-India dialogue forum
India continues its constructive role to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity through active participation in various Asean-led mechanisms such as Asean Regional Forum, Asean Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus, and expanded Asean Maritime Forum, and East Asia Summit.
Asean has encouraged India to timely conclude the negotiations for a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by end of this year. RCEP is going to be the world’s largest trading region, accounting for 25 percent of the world economy.
Plan of Action
Last month, at the Asean-India Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting, both sides assessed the implementation of a 2010-2015 Plan of Action, which includes political security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation.
Asean and India are formulating a new Plan of Action for the next five-year period from 2016 to 2020. Next month, in Kuala Lumpur, this will be adopted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Asean and India.
The new Plan will include new measures to deepen the partnership between India and Asean – from strategic, security, economic and socio-cultural dimensions.