The 35th summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations, held in Bangkok early in November, showed that a shifting geostrategic landscape notwithstanding, “ASEAN centrality” in the region is a top priority with members. It also served as a backdrop for three summits that ASEAN held on November 4 with China, U.S. and India
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There have been mixed reactions to India’s not signing on to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. India is often criticised for abstaining from trade agreements and being a protectionist nation, but in fact, the reverse is true. The country’s trade to GDP ratio of 43% is higher than China’s 38% and the U.S.’ 27%. This shows how important trade is for India, particularly if it wants to reach the 2024 goal of being a $5- trillion economy.
Canada, which has been slow to respond to a changing trans-Pacific neighbourhood, can join India and the ASEAN member states to embark on a trilateral dialogue on the Indo-Pacific’s importance in terms of political, strategic and other domains. An alignment in outlook can strengthen the security and prosperity of a region, currently mired in U.S.-China rivalries
The following remarks were given by Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, Gateway House as a speaker at the ASEAN-India Business Summit on November 27, 2018.
In two years, the Modi government’s Act East Policy has gone well beyond the focus on economic ties of its predecessor, the Look East Policy. It has made progress on many wider fronts, including connectivity and defence collaboration. India must now build on this success and further consolidate relations and trade links with ASEAN and beyond
The AIIB is a step along a path that started with the Asian financial crisis, which defined ASEAN’s views about the U.S.’s commitment to the region. Although the bank may signal the rise of China, it is also a coming together of Chinese and ASEAN goals—ASEAN’s focus on infrastructure for growth requires another source of finance, and this forecasts its strong relationship with the AIIB
The India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in services and trade will allow India to leverage its competitive offerings in IT, finance, among other fields. But the pact has proved elusive so far due to the open squabbling between ministries. The deal now looks set to come through only after the new government takes over
The U.S. government shutdown and President Obama’s absence gave China immense diplomatic and political space at the APEC and East Asia Summit meetings. China’s declaration of a “de-Americanised” world may be premature but the crumbling old order is doing little to dispel this notion
The steps taken by the Indian government to enable private sector involvement in ASEAN have been hesitant. After the recent ASEAN summit in New Delhi, it is time for greater coordination of Indian private industry with government-to-government interaction, which will benefit all members, including India.
What have economic blockades in India's North East achieved? For one, they choked off the supply chain of an already isolated region. With Myanmar showing signs of warming towards India, New Delhi must establish ties with its eastern neighbour, but first, it needs to fix Manipur’s broken socio-political landscape.