New Delhi: India and ASEAN have decided to make the cooperation stronger and more comprehensive at all levels. The Indian foreign ministry informed that a decision to this effect, was taken in the 21st ASEAN India Senior Officials Meeting, held on 11th and 12th April. The foreign ministry informed that the strategic cooperation between India and ASEAN was given utmost importance in this meeting.
India has taken rapid steps to increase strategic cooperation with ASEAN, which has Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Singapore, as its members. India has replaced its ‘Look East’ policy with the ‘Act East’ policy, for this purpose. The Indian initiative to improve cooperation with the ASEAN countries becomes significant, given the Chinese attempts to tighten the noose of the ‘Belt and Road initiative’ (BRI) project, around the countries in the region. The Indian policy enjoys complete support from the United States and Japan, and both the countries have suggested that Indian cooperation with the ASEAN countries, will be more beneficial than China, who has monstrous ambitions.
India is making efforts to increase trade cooperation, along with military and political cooperation. There have been multiple rounds of talks between both the parties, in the last few years. The latest round of talks, between the senior officials from India and ASEAN, were held in New Delhi, on 11th and 12th April. Strategic cooperation was the central issue in this round of talks.
The issue of regional and international interests of India and ASEAN topped the list of issues during the talks. India and ASEAN came to a consensus regarding cooperation, in the marine sector.
The discussions were centred around the economics related to the marine sector and the cooperation in this sector. The foreign ministry informed that the issues of making the communication and connectivity more effective and speedier, for the freight movement, trade and other sectors, were also discussed during the meeting. The foreign ministry also announced that agreement was reached on strengthening the coordination and cooperation on the economic issues. India and ASEAN have agreed to take the cooperation in the energy sector, to a new height and a special conference will be organised to address the energy sector.
Meanwhile, China is trying to intimidate the ASEAN countries with its military and financial might. Some of the ASEAN countries are involved in border disputes, with China. China is threatening to end these border disputes, using its military might. At the same time, China is trying to bring the ASEAN countries under its influence, using the BRI project. Given this, the ASEAN countries have started increasing cooperation with countries like the United States, Japan and Australia.
ASEAN is trying to ward off the Chinese pressure, by increasing its cooperation with India. The strong Indian economy and the Indian status in this sector, does not pose any threat to the ASEAN countries. This has created many opportunities for Democratic India, to increase cooperation with ASEAN.