|Introduction: Give a brief introduction to ASEAN.|
Body: Discuss the role of ASEAN in shaping the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific.
Conclusion: Way forward for the India-ASEAN alliance.
“ASEAN” is a 10-member regional, intergovernmental organization aiming to promote economic, political, security, military, educational, and socio-cultural integration between its members and other countries in Asia. It was established in 1967 in Bangkok(Thailand), with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its Founding members. Its 5 founding members are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Later 5 more members were added including Brunei Darussalam(1984); Vietnam(1995); Lao PDR and Myanmar(1997); and Cambodia(1999), making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN. They have an anthem, a flag, and biannual summits with rotating chairmanship. Its official motto is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
Role of ASEAN in shaping the strategic dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region:
- ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP): It aims at enhancing the ASEAN community-building process and strengthening existing mechanisms like the East Asia Summit (EAS) to face challenges and seize opportunities arising from the current and future regional and global environments.
- Maritime Cooperation: ASEAN is committed to universally recognised principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to deal with issues like maritime disputes, unsustainable exploitation of maritime resources, and maritime pollution.
- Connectivity: The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 should be supported and supplemented by current and upcoming connectivity initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region. The goal of the ASEAN connectivity vision is to create an interconnected, seamless, and competitive region that will foster inclusivity and a stronger feeling of community.
- Economic Cooperation: ASEAN is a major driver of economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The bloc actively engages with major external powers, including the United States, China, Japan, and India, & promotes trade and investment by supporting the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 and other free trade agreements including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) & Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
- ASEAN centrality in Indo-Pacific: As the Indo-Pacific region sees power competition and changes in geopolitical dynamics, ASEAN helps to preserve balance and prevent excessive domination by any one large power. This ensures that the bloc remains central to the geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific.
A “strong and unified” ASEAN in Indo-Pacific, is important for the convergence between the AOIP and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. India and ASEAN should collaborate in “newer areas like the cyber, financial, and maritime security domains” to strengthen their entire strategic alliance.