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The Big Picture- PM at ASEAN and East Asia Forum: Takeaways?



The Big Picture- PM at ASEAN and East Asia Forum: Takeaways?


Recently Indian Prime Minister has been involved in some robust diplomacy while attending ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Laos apart from having a series of bilateral meetings with US and Japanese counterpart. India this year marked its 20 years for full dialogue partnership with ASEAN. The importance of these countries to India is very significant ever since it adopted the Look East Policy which later got converted into Act East Policy. These ASEAN countries are not only important with respect to trade and economic cooperation but also security and defence aspects.


  1. The conversion of Look East to Act East Policy happened because India’s focus shifted away from ASEAN and now there is a clear indication that defence and security cooperation has assumed a larger share. A lot depends on the implementation of India’s projects and promises in order to regain the lost ground in the east.
  2. China is both the determinant as well as a constraint in policies of India towards South East Asia and this constraint is compelling India to take some tough decisions. Indonesia has been left out and this where a shortfall is being seen.
  3. Prime Minister’s visit to Vietnam and the fact that he announced a 500 million dollar credit line that would be focused on the defence and security shows the commitment India is bringing in the bilateral arrangements with a regional impact.
  4. One of the most important aspects is security in maritime domain. There is a need to ensure security and stability in the sea and efforts are required collectively in this matter. The SAGAR initiative by Indian Prime Minister is a clear underpinning of the fact that maritime security has to be given its due importance.
  5. Indian projects are delayed in this region like the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project and the north-east Myanmar connectivity has also been a problem. China has now gained an edge in this area and therefore, it is important to contain them. Countries like Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are much closer to China. At present, ASEAN is itself split on issues like South China Sea and does not have a united kind of stand. Indian trade under performs in this region and China is far ahead of India. Security policies follow trade policies in a certain way. Both have to match up with each other.
  6. This region always had more Chinese influence at least in those countries which are on the Pacific side. China wants to dominate the region like freedom of navigation in South China Sea or over flights. India can play a major role here by having good diplomatic ties with Japan because it is unlikely that Japan will move on towards Chinese side.
  7. This platform has also been utilized by India to raise the issue of terrorism. Since 2008, Pakistan supported terrorist attacks have been declining. Though India wants to sensitize other international leaders on this issue, these summits have to be used by India to put up its positive agenda because it has huge economic prospects in terms of manufacturing and trade.
  8. Primary area of concern for India right now is China Pakistan nexus. Indian Prime Minister has been candid in showing China that on one hand it wants to be a responsible nation but on the other hand, it is abating terrorism. China is rewarding countries which support terrorism.

The mild language in the statement, despite growing tensions in the region over China’s claims, is quite striking given that the summit included US President, whose administration has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s actions in the resource-rich sea. The lukewarm rebuke is a reflection of Beijing’s diplomatic, economic and military clout within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which spearheaded the summit with the United States, China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.