ASEAN India Summit & East Asia Summit

India’s Act East policy focused on commerce, culture and connectivity aims to strengthen and expand the country’s reach globally ascertaining its developing status.

November 14, 2017

India’s Act East policy is centred around the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group that comprises of some of the country’s biggest bilateral partners

The strategy will explore fresh avenues for cooperation in trade and commerce, security and defence, health and education, science and technology and infrastructure

A founding member of the East Asia Summit, India is committed to the strategic and geopolitical evolution of East Asia in order to maximise economic opportunities

India to organise the ASEAN India Connectivity Summit, the ASEAN India Commemorative Summit and the ASEAN India Business and Investment Meet and Expo in the coming months

India’s three-C policy – commerce, culture and connectivity – that guides its foreign interactions, when joined with a fourth C (cooperation) forms the core agenda driving the ASEAN Summit. The 31st edition of the summit was held at Manila in Philippines over November 11-14, 2017 and was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian delegation, led by PM Modi, held successful discussions on a variety of issues covering cultural ties, investment and business opportunities, collaborations on infrastructure as well as driving growth in Southeast Asia.

The group’s importance has steadily increased for the simple fact that its member states – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – along with six closest partners   Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand represent the majority of the world population. The combined GDP of the member nations is estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, the East Asia Summit includes the 10 ASEAN member states, India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Russia.

India: A leading example in ASEAN

While pitching India as an ideal investment destination, PM Modi stressed upon his government’s pro-development initiatives that included repeal of around 1,200 outdated laws, along with introduction of fresh regulations to address the issues of bankruptcy, insolvency,  intellectual property rights and arbitration. The Indian government has also increased support for business by simplifying industrial licensing and approval system as well through reform measures such as the Goods and Service Tax rollout.

These initiatives have helped India jump 30 spots to the 100th rank on the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2017. As many as 90 per cent of sectors under the purview of India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy currently operate through the automatic approval route. Speaking of India’s potential to be a global manufacturing hub, PM Modi emphasised on the importance of entrepreneurship in the ASEAN region. The ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) launched at the summit is expected to propel Southeast Asia as the growth engine of the world.

India and ASEAN are to expedite an Agreement on Maritime Transport to improve connectivity in the region

Improving connectivity within ASEAN

Apart from improving the entrepreneurial base, building land, sea and air connectivity within the ASEAN region remains key to India’s growth strategy. India’s expertise has already been called in to implement the Trilateral Highway project, through Myanmar and Thailand. This will not only open new trade routes and connectivity across Southeast Asia, but also showcase India’s ability to break through hostile terrains. Accordingly, India and ASEAN will expedite the Agreement on Maritime Transport between India and ASEAN to improve connectivity in the region.

The 15th ASEAN India summit and 12th East Asia Summit, however, were not the only highlights of PM Modi’s Manila visit. He also participated in a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting and ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. In addition, PM Modi also held bilateral meetings with several world leaders. PM Modi and ASEAN Leaders reviewed the commemorative activities undertaken in 2017 to mark India’s 25 year-long partnership with ASEAN.

Relations in Asia to strengthen in future

Early conclusion of a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will further boost India’s trade and investment ties with the region. Trade between India and ASEAN stood at US$71 billion in 2016-17 and comprised 10.85 per cent of India’s total international trade. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Mahavir Philippines Foundation Inc (MPFI), both stopovers during MP Modi’s visit, are prime examples of the accelerated engagement between the two growth poles of a vibrant Asia.

IRRI has also successfully collaborated with Indian Council for Agricultural Research to introduce drought-tolerant, flood-tolerant and salt-tolerant varieties of rice in India. Taking the collaborations forward, India will organise the ASEAN India Connectivity Summit, the ASEAN India Commemorative Summit and the ASEAN India Business and Investment Meet and Expo in the coming months.

Alongside, the East Asia Summit, an Indo-Pacific entities led forum, has played a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of East Asia. As a founding member, India is committed towards strengthening the East Asia Summit and making it more effective for dealing with contemporary challenges, while maximising opportunities.