Free sample essay on India- Asian Relations

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India has shared a close relationship with ASEAN countries since the beginning. India had supported the Indonesian struggle for independence and involved itself in the Indochina crisis in the 1960s. It consolidated its bilateral and diplomatic relations with Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines and signed friendship treaties with them. However, relations with these countries took a downturn when India-Soviet Peace and

Friendship Cooperation Treaty was signed in 1971 as they became suspicious of India's intentions. Further, India's strong political and military relations with Vietnam also resulted in the worsening of relations. Through the 1980s, the relations between India and ASEAN countries remained uncertain and plagued by various political and diplomatic differences.

India re-oriented its foreign policy priorities after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under its Look-East policy India began reviving its economic relations with Southeast Asia. At the same time, ASEAN nations too realized the importance of India as an emerging regional power and its significance for their political and economic future.

In early 1992, India was accepted as ASEAN's sectoral partner and subsequently as its full dialogue partner in July 1996. The relationship was further elevated with the convening of the ASEAN-India Summit in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since then, the ASEAN-India Summit has been held annually. All these took place in a decade, which clearly signifies the importance of the dialogue partnership to ASEAN and India and the progress made in the cooperation.

In terms of political and security cooperation, India participates in a series of consultative meetings with ASEAN under the ASEAN-India dialogue relations , which include Summit, ministerial meetings, senior officials meetings and meetings at experts level, as well as through dialogue and cooperation frameworks initiated by ASEAN such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Post Ministerial Conferences (PMCs), the East Asia Summit (EAS), Mekang-Ganga Cooperation and Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), all of which help contribute to enhancing regional dialogue and accelerating regional integration.

At the second ASEAN-India Summit in Bali, Indonesia in October 2003, India acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) and thus demonstrated its commitment and shared interest to ensuring peace, security, stability and development in Southeast Asia. At the same occasion, ASEAN and India also signed a Joint Declaration for Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, symbolising concrete initiatives to step up cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

At the third ASEAN-India Summit in Vientiane in November 2004, ASEAN and India signed the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity—a reflection of the interest of ASEAN and India to intensify their engagement. The Partnership sets out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement and a Plan of Action was subsequently developed to implement it. Accordingly, India has an accredited Ambassador to ASEAN.

The year 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of India-ASEAN dialogue relations and a Commemorative Summit will be held in India. The expanding and deepening of the dialogue partnership will be reflected in the commemorative activities to mark the event.

In terms of economic cooperation, between 1993 and 2003, ASEAN- India bilateral trade grew at an annual rate of 11.22 per cent, from US $2.9 billion in 1993 to US $12.1 billion in 2003. In 2008, the total volume of ASEAN-India trade grew to US $47,465 billion. While ASEAN's export to India was US $30,086 billion its import from India was US $17,379 billion. As for foreign direct investment (FDI), the inflow from India to ASEAN Member States was US $429.62 million in 2008, accounting for 0.7 per cent of total FDI in the region. Total Indian FDI into ASEAN from 1995 to 2008 was US $1,696 billion.

Acknowledging this trend and recognising the economic potentials of closer linkages, the ASEAN-India Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was signed by the leaders of ASEAN and India at the second ASEAN-India Summit in 2003. The Framework Agreement laid a sound basis for the eventual establishment of an ASEAN-India Regional Trade and Investment Area (RTIA), which includes FTA in goods, services, and investment. Subsequently, after six years of negotiations, the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods (TIG) Agreement was signed in Bangkok in August 2009.

The ASEAN-India TIG Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2010 and it paves the way for the creation of one of the world's largest free trade areas (FTA) with a market of almost 1.8 billion people and a combined GDP of US $ 2.75 trillion. The ASEAN-India FTA will see tariff liberalisation of over 90 per cent of products traded between the two including special products, such as palm oil (crude and refined), coffee, black tea and pepper. Under FTA, tariffs on over 4,000 product lines are expected to be eliminated by 2016, at the earliest.

The seventh ASEAN-India Summit held in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand in October 2009 noted that the initial target of US $ 50 billion set in 2007 may soon be surpassed and revised the bilateral trade target to US $ 70 billion to be achieved by 2011. Currently, ASEAN and India are working towards the early conclusion of the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements.

In terms of socio-cultural cooperation, ASEAN-India functional cooperation has expanded over the year to include human resource development, science and technology (S&T), people-to-people contacts, health and pharmaceuticals, transport and infrastructure, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), tourism, information and communication technology (ICT), agriculture, energy and Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), and people-to-people exchanges. All cooperation projects are funded by the ASEAN-India Fund (AIF).

At the third ASEAN-India Summit in November 2004 in Vientiane, a Plan of Action (PoA) to implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity was adopted by the leaders of ASEAN and India. The PoA, in turn, is carried out through activities prepared by the ASEAN Secretariat in the form of a matrix incorporating the proposed activities under the various existing ASEAN sectoral work plans, Declarations concluded between ASEAN and India as well as priority activities under the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009- 2015 that could be implemented with India. The matrix is a working and evolving document in which both ASEAN and India could suggest changes according to needs and priorities of the dialogue relations.

India is also actively contributing to the implementation of the IAI Work Plan with the implementation of some of the IAI projects/activities such as the Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC) and the Centres for the English Language Training (CELT) in Indonesia, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

During the sixth ASEAN-India Summit in November 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced setting up of an India-ASEAN Green Fund with an initial contribution of US $5 million to support activities relating to climate change. The Fund supports cooperative pilot projects between ASEAN and India for promotion of technologies aimed at promoting adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

The Prime Minister also announced the establishment of the ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund with an initial fund of US $1 million to encourage collaborative R&D and technology development between ASEAN and India. The same year, India also contributed US $1 million to the ASEAN Development Fund (ADF).

ASEAN-India relations have thus come a long way since their turbulent Cold War phase. With the ASEAN-India FTA in the offing, this partnership only stands to be further strengthened. There is a clear sense that ASEAN intends to integrate the East Asian region into one consolidated regional bloc and it is certain of the importance of having India as a part of it. ASEAN sees India as an emerging power in Asia and is keen to develop relations with it that would be beneficial to countries within ASEAN and to the region as a whole. Economically, India, with its burgeoning middle class, can be a significant market for ASEAN manufactures and consequently, an important source of welfare for the region.

While there is a lot that ASEAN can gain from India's development in its service sector India understands that the ASEAN grouping consists of countries which have achieved significant development in the last two decades and it is in its interest to establish beneficial linkages with these countries. While there are definite challenges to be addressed before achieving a consolidated East Asian Community, it is evident that conscious efforts are being made on both the sides in developing synergies for the shared prosperity and mutual benefit of India, ASEAN and the Asian region at large.


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