ASEAN links its Indo-Pacific strategy to India’s outreach

In News:

  • The 34th ASEAN Summit has acknowledged Indo-Pacific as concept for dialogue and cooperation.
  • It also offered “ASEAN Centrality” as means of engagement with all stakeholders in Indo–Pacific from grouping such as BIMSTEC, IORA, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus).


About Indo-Pacific Region

  • It is an integrated theatre that combines the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and the land masses that surround them.
  • In recent years, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has become widely resonant in the geo-strategic discourse with the Trump administration in US also consistently used the term.
  • The term Indo-Pacific achieved operational clarity after the Indian vision was presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.
  • India has also stressed the centrality of ASEAN to the concept of Indo-Pacific.
  • Significance for India:
    • India’s Indo-Pacific policy is about expanding its strategic, economic and cultural domain to a space between the Red Sea and the Pacific, with the Indian Ocean as the core.
    • The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ highlights the importance of the “Indian Ocean” in which India, because of its growing profile, would play a greater role in Asia-Pacific affairs. China is pushing back against this idea as China prefers to the sole predominant superpower in the region with its own rules.
    • A key aspect of India’s policy in the Indo-Pacific is inclusiveness, and the complete absence of expansionist tendencies.
    • India’s view of the Indo-Pacific is rooted in a reclamation of its traditional strategic space in the Indian Ocean, and looking to go beyond.


News Summary:

  • ASEAN has released the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific after the 34th Asean summit.
  • ASEAN has reserved a special place for India’s BIMSTEC grouping as one to connect with in its new Indo- Pacific strategy. This will be the first sign that India’s renewed interest in Bimstec has found resonance in the region.
  • In recent years, India is more focused on Bimstec, to redefine its neighbourhood eastwards, to build on connectivity and open a channel for greater economic and strategic engagement eastwards.


ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific

  • The summit agreed to reinforce ASEAN’s leading role in the conduct of relations with external partners in the region.
  • BIMSTEC, IORA and other organisations will provide potential for cooperation.
  • Asean’s centrality is the central theme of the outlook.
  • ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific provides a guide for ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
  • The Outlook also recognizes the potential for cooperation with other regional mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions on issues of common interests through innovative, inter-disciplinary and complementary approaches based on the relevant ASEAN-led mechanisms, such as the EAS.
  • Strategic discussions on this matter and practical cooperative activities can be pursued at ASEAN-led mechanisms including, among others, the EAS, the ASEAN Plus One mechanisms, ARF, and ADMM-Plus.

Key elements of Outlook:

  • A perspective of viewing the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as a closely integrated and interconnected region, with ASEAN playing a central and strategic role;
  • An Indo-Pacific region of dialogue and cooperation instead of rivalry;
  • An Indo-Pacific region of development and prosperity for all;
  • The importance of the maritime domain and perspective in the evolving regional architecture.

ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific is aimed at:

  • Offering an outlook to guide cooperation in the region;
  • Helping to promote an enabling environment for peace, stability and prosperity in the region
  • Enhancing ASEAN’s Community building process
  • Implementing existing and exploring other ASEAN priority areas of cooperation, including maritime cooperation, connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and economic and other possible areas of cooperation.


  • It is based on the principles of strengthening ASEAN Centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, a rules-based framework, good governance, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit and respect for international law.



Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (more commonly known as ASEAN) is an intergovernmental organization aimed primarily at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its members.
  • There are currently 10 member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • ASEAN aims to promote collaboration and cooperation among member states, as well as to advance the interests of the region as a whole, including economic and trade growth.
  • Thailand is the current chair of ASEAN.



Why was it set up?

  • ASEAN was founded in 1967 by the five Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • This was during the polarized atmosphere of the Cold War, and the alliance aimed to promote stability in the region.
  • Over time, the group expanded to include its current 10 members.
  • Regional cooperation was further extended with the creation of the ASEAN Plus Three forum in 1997, which included China, South Korea and Japan.
  • Later, the East Asia Summit, which began taking place in 2005 and has expanded to include India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.

Significance of ASEAN for India

  • ASEAN can help India counter China’s expansionist push in Indo-Pacific region
  • India is engaging with ASEAN on projects that connect Northeastern states to Asia
  • ASEAN accounts for nearly 12.5 per cent of investment flows into India since 2000


ASEAN Summit

  • The ASEAN Summit is a biannual meeting held by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in relation to economic, political, security, and socio-cultural development of Southeast Asian countries.
  • In addition, it serves as a prominent regional (Asia) and international (worldwide) conference, with world leaders attending its related summits and meetings to discuss various problems and global issues, strengthening cooperation, and making decisions.

Recent ASEAN Summits:

  • 33rd Summit: November 2018: Singapore
  • 34th Summit: June 2019: Thailand (Bangkok)
  • 35th Summit: November 2019: Thailand (Bangkok)
  • 36th Summit: April/ May 2020: Vietnam

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