2022: A Key year for INDIA-ASEAN Relations
India-ASEAN bilateral relationship started evolving since India introduced 'Look East Policy' in 1990s. This initiative was further transformed to ‘Act East Policy’ in 2014 mainly to develop economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asian countries. In 1992, India has emerged as a sectoral Partner of ASEAN followed by Dialogue Partner in 1996 and a Summit-level Partner in 2002. In 2015, India has also set up a separate Mission to ASEAN and the East Asia Summit in Jakarta in 2015 with a dedicated Ambassador to strengthen engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-centric processes.
India and ASEAN region is celebrating 30th Anniversary of their ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations in 2022. The year is embarked as 'ASEAN-India Friendship Year'. The year also witnessed few key bilateral visits and meetings.
Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister (EAM) of India undertook his first bilateral visit to Philippines from 13-15 February, 2022. He held discussion with Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines regarding the developments in the bilateral relations post their last meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation in November 2020.1
India has also hosted the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (SAIFMM)2 in June 2022. This was co-chaired by the Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs with Dr S. Jaishankar. The meeting focussed on exploring cooperation in the areas of digital transformation, financial inclusion, climate change, sustainable development, logistics connectivity and regional economic integration.
Later in August, Dr Jaishankar co-chaired the annual ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AIFMM) with H.E. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister of Singapore in Cambodia from 03-05 August, 2022.3 AIFMM focused on enhancing cooperation in segments such as smart agriculture, healthcare, renewable energy, digital and fintech.
This was followed by his visit to Thailand from 16-18 August 2022 where he co-chaired the 9th Meeting of India-Thailand Joint Commission (JCM) with His Excellency Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand. Both sides discussed on areas of collaboration in trade, tourism, joint exercises, defence mechanisms, physical connectivity, ICT, cyber security, and geopolitical issues. During this visit, Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) was signed on health and medical research between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in India and the Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) in Thailand. Another MoU was signed on broadcasting between Prasar Bharati and the Thai Public Broadcasting Service.4
In addition to this, Dr Raj Kuman Rajan Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs and Education recently held bilateral discussions with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat Dato Lim Jock Hoi during his first visit to Indonesia from August 28-29. MOS also inaugurated the ASEAN India Network of Universities to develop the linkage between universities of both the regions. Minster also attended the inauguration of H.E. Mr. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as the President of Republic of the Philippines in Manila on 30 June 2022.5
These active engagements between both the regions indicates a positive sign that would take their strategic partnership to a greater height.