India and ASEAN : Narrative about Indo-Pacific

At the 34th ASEAN summit, a document titled ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ was released. It outlines the position of ASEAN on Indo-Pacific.

Similarities and Parallels in Thoughts

  • The ASEAN outlook envisages ASEAN centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. This narrative is close to the Indian position articulated by PM Narendra Modi in the Shangrila dialogue of 2018.
  • PM Modi had stated that “The ten countries of South East Asia connect the two great oceans in both the geographical and civilisational sense. Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity, therefore, lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific”.
  • ASEAN sees Indo-pacific as an opportunity to promote an enabling environment for peace, stability and prosperity by upholding a “rules-based regional architecture”. Similarly, India seeks such an order which must equally apply to all individually as well as to the global commons.
  • The ASEAN outlook calls for peaceful settlements of disputes in the region which specifically mentions the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is interpreted as being squarely aimed at China and its aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
  • Even India believes that when nations make international commitments, they must uphold them including in freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and settlement of disputes.
  • ASEAN Outlook envisions Indo-pacific through an inclusive approach to the region as it visualises avoiding the deepening of mistrust, miscalculation and patterns of behaviour based on a zero-sum game.
  • Similarly Indian narrative clearly outlines that the Indo-Pacific region is not an exclusive club aimed at any country but must be inclusive, aiming at security and prosperity for all in the region.

Hence there is a great similarity and parallel in both thought and approach between the Indian and ASEAN positions on the Indo-Pacific Region. Both India and ASEAN does not want to be in a position to have to choose sides between the big players, there is common ground between the two.

ASEAN led mechanisms such as East Asia Summit, ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting) plus framework will come handy in strengthening the Indo-Pacific.

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