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Context:  The 3rd ASEAN Digital Ministers (ADGMIN) meeting with India was held on a virtual platform


  • In 2022, ASEAN India Friendship Year was celebrated, commemorating 30th anniversary of establishment of dialogue relations with ASEAN which culminated into ASEAN and India elevating Strategic Partnership to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
  • Under the theme: “Synergy Towards a Sustainable Digital Future”, the meeting had fruitful and productive discussions on strengthening India ASEAN relations in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
  • The Ministers meeting approved the India-ASEAN Digital Work Plan 2023. The workplan includes
    • the capacity building and knowledge sharing in emerging areas in the field of Information and Communication Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence in Cyber Security, Application of IoT & AI in Next Generation Smart City & Society 5.0, Sustainable Data and Transport Network for Future: Standards and Applications, 5G technologies for IoT and future trends,
    • Role of ICT in implementation of Digital Health and Security protection and assessment for future network, etc. The ongoing and proposed projects in ICTs, will strengthen collaboration between India and ASEAN by leveraging complementary strengths of each other.

About ASEAN:

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Brunei Darussalamthen joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
  • 8th August is observed as ASEAN Day. ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.
  • Its objectives are:
    • To promote regional stability, economic growth, social progress, cultural development, active collaboration in greater utilisation of resources, also promote Southeast Asian studiesand cooperation in regional as well as international issues.

India-ASEAN Relations:

  • India began formal engagement with ASEAN in 1992as a “Sectoral Dialogue Partner” (and subsequently as a “Dialogue Partner” in 1996.
  • At the 20thCommemorative Summit Meeting in New Delhi (December 2012) India’s Dialogue Partnership was further elevated to a Strategic Partnership.
  • During the 25thCommemorative Summit in New Delhi (January 2018), India and ASEAN have further agreed that our Strategic Partnership will be focused on building cooperation in the maritime domain.
  • The year 2022 marks 30 years of ASEAN-India relationsand it has been designated as ASEAN-India Friendship Year by the leaders in October 2021.
  • Engagement with ASEAN is a multi-level interaction process. At the apex is the annual summits (“ASEAN-India Summit”) supported by meetings at the Foreign Minister level (“ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting”-AIFMM.
  • To support cooperation activities between ASEAN and India, Govt of India has created three funds:
    • ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund (AIF),
    • ASEAN-India Green Fund (AIGF) and
    • ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund (AISTDF).
  • The‘Delhi Dialogue’ (DD) mechanism hosted by India annually allows participation of think tanks, academics and prominent civil society persons from both India and the ASEAN region, in addition to government representatives, to contribute ideas and perspectives to furthering the India-ASEAN strategic partnership.
  • The three main formal institutional mechanisms being used to promote the India-ASEAN economic ‘connect’:
    • ASEAN Economic Ministers-India Consultations (AEM + India):
    • The ASEAN India Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (2003):
    • ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC):

Why ASEAN matters to India?

  • The ten countries of South East Asia connect the two great oceans in both the geographical and civilizational sense.
  • Central to India's Pacific vision, ASEAN assumes importance on the backdrop of an increasing Chinese influence in the region.
  • While India and China are locked in a bitter standoff along the Line of Actual Control, New Delhi's outreach to ASEAN nations will help strengthen much needed diplomatic ties.
  • ASEAN is also India's fourth-largest trade partner with about $86.9 Bn in trade between India and the ten ASEAN nations.
  • ASEAN and India share land and maritime borders, and there is a lot of scope for enhancing connectivity through land, air and sea.
  • India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an ongoing effort to enhance road connectivity between Northeast India and Southeast Asia.
  • ASEAN-India strategic partnership stands on a strong foundation of shared geographical, historical and civilisational ties.
  • India’s Act East Policy, underlining ASEAN centrality, reflects the importance, India attaches to engagement with ASEAN.
  • Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity, lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific.
  • With the increasing focus on oceans as providers of resources, the reservoirs of biodiversity, the highways of global trade and the frontiers of scientific research, cooperation in the maritime domain has become increasingly important under the overall rubric of ASEAN-India cooperation.

Issues with ASEAN:

  • Lack of a custodian and lacks of strong institutions to guarantee the success of the implementation of its collective decisions.
  • Facing strategic competition for influence in the Asia-Pacific between the United States and China and have been forced to choose sides.
  • Each member faces their own unique social, economic, and political challenges. As a result, each seems to have no choice but focus on addressing their own internal affairs.
  • ASEAN members faces internal and external security challenges that are border disputes and conflicts, illegal migration, ethnic crises etc.

What need to be done:

  • ASEAN must put in extra efforts to sustain and enhance its existing successes and achievements. The bloc should emerge as a catalyst for peace by promoting rule of law in the region.
  • ASEAN must also promote transparency and work to reduce corruption.
  • This association needs to enhance closer coordination and regional connectivity. India should also start delivering the pending project. For ex. the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highways project
  • ASEAN need to strike a good balance between commercial gains and environmental protection if ASEAN wishes to achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development.