There are significant areas of convergence between India and the ASEAN grouping and it is an important pillar of India’s Act East policy. Analyse.


  • Introduce your answer by elaborating on India-ASEAN ties.
  • In the body, mention various areas of convergence between India and ASEAN. 
  • Conclude your answer appropriately. 

Model Answer:

India and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) community have held deep historical, civilizational, cross-cultural, trade and connectivity linkages for over several millennia. The ties between the two have progressed from a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1992 to a strategic partnership in 2012. Since then, the India-ASEAN partnership has certainly grown and today encompasses a wide set of issues. The year 2022 marked 30 years of ASEAN-India relations and was designated as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year and the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. 

ASEAN grouping is an important pillar of India’s Act East policy and there are various areas of convergence such as: 

  • Economic relations: India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth-largest trading partner. 
    • Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 18.28% of investment flows into India since 2000. Further, ASEAN and India have been also working on enhancing private-sector engagement. 
    • ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) set up in 2005 further aims to foster closer business linkages and provide an industry perspective on the broadening and deepening of economic linkages between ASEAN and India.
  • Political and security matters: India and ASEAN also cooperate closely on political and security matters, both at the country-to-country and multilateral levels. 
    • At the multilateral level, India is a member of multiple ASEAN-led fora, including the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting.
    • Maritime cooperation is a key plank of security relations between the two sides. India’s flagship MILAN naval exercise includes several ASEAN members. India also conducts bilateral coordinated patrols with several ASEAN countries, as well as exercises such as the Singapore-India Maritime Exercise. 
  • Sociocultural cooperation: India has been organising a large number of programmes to boost People-to-people interaction with ASEAN countries. 
    • E.g.: Inviting ASEAN students to India each year for the Students Exchange Programme, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians etc. 
    • The cultural connections between India and Southeast Asia are also deep and broad. Hinduism and Buddhism came to Southeast Asia from India. 
    • The Indian languages, Sanskrit and Pali, have influenced several of the region’s scripts.
    • The sites of Angkor Wat, Bagan, Borobudur and Prambanan were inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism. To add, the great Indian epic, Ramayana, is read and performed in all the ASEAN countries.
  • Connectivity: ASEAN-India connectivity is a priority for India as well as the ASEAN countries. There are various ongoing connectivity projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP), Mekong–India Economic Corridor (MIEC) etc. 
  • Financial Assistance: Through mechanisms such as the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund and the ASEAN-India Green Fund, India offers financial support to the ASEAN countries. 
  • Act East Policy: The India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership acquired a renewed vision and viable roadmap with the formal announcement of Act East Policy in 2014. 
    • The policy focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region with special reference to India’s North-Eastern Region as the gateway to access ASEAN countries. 
    • The prime minister has reiterated that ASEAN is the central pillar of India’s Act East Policy and the region plays a key role in India’s Indo-Pacific initiative. 
  • Plan of Action: Another pivotal component of India-ASEAN’s growing partnership relates to the Comprehensive Plan of Action (2021-2025) that aims at enhancing maritime trade and security cooperation along with counter-terrorism measures. The Plan of Action 2021-2025 carries forward the tenets of its precursor Plan (2016-2020) that had a purpose and intent for promoting peace, progress and shared prosperity in the region. 

India and ASEAN have made tremendous progress in the last few decades, built strong linkages with each other and the potential for further growth and connections is immense. There is potential for engagement on emerging issues of e-commerce and digital connectivity, financial technology, climate change and sustainability etc. Therefore, a heightened India-ASEAN partnership is going to be paramount in establishing geostrategic stability and much-needed power balance in the Indo-Pacific.