ASEAN-India relations: an outlook

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The cooperation has progressed by focusing upon agricultural innovations and research, fintech, and looking forward to space cooperation

By Aishwarya Nautiyal

On the 30th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations, New Delhi hosted ASEAN foreign ministers (SAIFMM) from all ten member countries to discuss further ways to strengthen cooperation as a part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Some potential sectors that are focused upon are health security, digital economy, and green development. It was co-chaired by India's External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, and Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Singapore. The pathway for the next decade was the critical agenda in which trade and commerce, connectivity, digitalization, education, and capacity building remained the crucial focal point of the exchange of views and essential aspects of the discussion. The representatives of ASEAN-India addressed the ministerial discussion of the twelfth edition of Delhi Dialogue focused on "Building Bridges in Indo-Pacific" based on contemporary global and regional scenarios. 

  Importance of India's Act East Policy remains a central point in its Indo-Pacific strategy. The whole spectrum of cooperation between member nations and India was political, security, economic, and cultural development through available ASEAN-led mechanisms to further strengthen cooperation for mutual growth and benefit. It upholds the multilateralism approach to provide a joint response to future global and regional challenges keeping the commitment to international laws, including the Charter of United Nations, the United Nations Convention of Law of Sea (UNCLOS), and other treaties through the cooperative framework. The potential cooperation between AOIP AND IPOI (Indo Pacific Oceans initiative) initiated by India for future Maritime collaboration, security, connectivity, blue economy, disaster Risk management, search and rescue, maritime environmental protection, and safety are the areas to be further strengthened, keeping that geographic maritime zones of ASEAN and India are a fruitful ground with shared regional oceanic borders.

  On the other hand, a work plan is being narrowed down to IAI WORK-PLAN IV(2021-2025) to alleviate poverty and strengthen community development. Also looking forward to achieving effective implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, a review of ASEAN- India trade in goods agreement( AITIGA) is being commenced to ensure more user-friendly and facilitate traders and businesses by endorsing its promotion and a joint committee review to ensure implementation is activated through joint committee review. Enhancing digitalization and physical infrastructure with the "Connecting the Connectedness" approach in which the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is looking forward to its early operationalization and further expansion to Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Cambodia through collaboration in smart cities project with advanced innovation, technological advancement, and robust air and, land and marine connectivity. 

  Further, to ensure a fast and interoperable digitalization by empowering it in various platforms such as healthcare, education, finance, and cyber security through G-2-G dialogue, further promoting India's Track 1.5 Dialogue of 2019 on cyber issues with ASEAN nations. Jointly promoting further defense relations through various maritime naval exercises along Field Training Exercise of the ADMM-Plus Experts' Working Group on HADR in Indonesia 2023 has been convened and welcomed counter-terrorism, radicalization, extremism, and transnational criminal activities by finalizing Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC)+ India Work Programme on Transnational Crime. Another plan that has been touched upon is dramatically changing the climate situation through various interdependent mechanisms for managing sustainable energy, innovation, hydrogen, innovative grid projects, and utilization of alternative energy sources for future development.

  As the world moves forward for intellectual development, the cooperation has also progressed by focusing upon agricultural innovations and research, fintech, and looking forward to space cooperation with India's robust and efficient space industry with highly competitive budgeting leading towards various multilateral collaboration with Indian Space Agency (ISRO). Healthcare has been a primary concern, especially in the post-pandemic era, where further rapid innovation in medicinal drugs and emergency generation of vaccines has been highlighted to ensure strengthened cooperation to tackle futuristic pandemic crises through availability and capability of production. India's famous IIT industry, which already has highly competent experts who have global outreach on various platforms, has provided continued support for 1000 Ph.D. 's for ASEAN students. 

Advance transformation for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises with continued support has been promoted along with the subregional framework of the Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ( BIMSTEC) for mutual growth and promote comprehensive Strategic Partnership ensuring mutual benefits through a vision both substantive and meaningful in India-ASEAN cooperation.

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