Asean in search of greater engagement with India

Jakarta, 14 Aug, 2015

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is looking to intensify trade ties with India to double the volume in another decade as a carry-over from the Delhi Dialogue V that had set out negotiate greater cooperation in business and security, an ASEAN deputy secretary general told the Asian News Network media at a briefing in the Indonesian capital on August 14.

The official said the trade between the 10 ASEAN members and India stood approximately at 200 million US dollars, which “was a pittance given the scale of economic growth and the solidarity of the ASEAN bloc with India which had strengthened over the decades”. India is a dialogue partner of ASEAN with special trade agreement and cooperation initiatives in the spheres of regional security, maritime affairs, people to people contact, peace building and socio-cultural development.

“We can intensify and enhance relationship between India and ASEAN. The association wants to engage with the Indian chambers of commerce and industry,” deputy secretary general of ASEAN AKP Mochtan said.

The fact that India is serious about its engagement with ASEAN is evident from the fact that the country has two ambassadors to the association, including a permanent resident envoy, Suresh K. Reddy. India has also set up a separate ASEAN office six months ago, the official said. But the initiatives have not yet yielded any tangible gains despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “look east” commitment at the ASEAN summit in 2014. .

ASEAN’s eagerness for enhanced engagement in trade and regional security with India assumes significance in the light of a code of conduct that the 10-member bloc is drawing up to ensure stability in the disputed South China Sea region and in countering the growing threat of terror and unchecked migration of the boat people from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Malaysia, Thailand and beyond, the official said, adding that India’s support and cooperation were needed to maintain stability in the south-east Asian region.

“When it comes to the issue of the South China Sea, we are looking at the issue of stability and security of the region – and the overlapping claims. China is perceived to be provocative and there is some concern about it. That is why Asean is vocal about the issue – for the dispute relates to the stability of the region and applies to all the member states. The stand-off needs diplomatic solutions and we have several mechanisms to address it. We are in the process of drafting a CoC – code of conduct. It is another mechanism,” the ASEAN official said.

At the ASEAN regional forum meeting in Ufa in July 2015 , together with the BRICS and the SCO summit, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi pledged to engage more seriously with ASEAN in peace-building and regional security concerns.

The ASEAN official recalled Modi’s pledge saying, the 10-member south east Asian nation’s association wanted to broaden “cooperation with India to include collaborations in culture and soft power as well” for better understanding.

At a meeting of the member nations this week, the association decided to bid for the 2034 World Cup provided FIFA cleared the formalities. “We are looking at the feasibility of the prospect and carrying out an assessment of the infrastructure. The bid has to be in place in 2019,” the officer said. But before that “ASEAN will institute a super football league in the region”.

Madhusree Chatterjee
The Statesman(Kolkata)/Asia News Network .


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