The jubilation displayed by many ASEAN countries on account of the Vietnam’s statement as chair of the 36th ASEAN Summit, referencing events in the South China Sea is belied by a sense of realism and caution. But the fact that more nations are speaking up is a good sign.
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.
Indonesia and Malaysia appreciate India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific, but are also aware of all that keeps it from delivering on its commitments. A policy visit to the two countries enabled a closer look at some key issues, such as ASEAN’s centrality, the Quad and India’s stand on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
China's belligerence in the South China Sea is causing anxiety in India. India needs to strengthen its stance on the situation to maintain preponderance in the region which holds great significance to its trade.
At present, the ASEAN is at a critical phase in its dealings with China – the regional hegemon with growing heft. Why do ASEAN nations need to collaborate and find innovative ways to deal with its giant neighbour.