India and South-east and East Asia

Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbour and shares 1640 km lomg border with north-eastern states of Nagaland and Manipur.  India has “historical ties and traditional bonds of friendship and cooperation” with Myanmar Five Bs are the base of India-Myanmar relations – Buddhism, Business, Bollywood, Bharatnatyam and Burma teak  India attaches its partnership with Myanmar in accordance with its ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies


Why Myanmar is important for India

  • The strategic location of Myanmar is beneficial for India’s economic engagement as well as physical and social connectivity.
  • For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and it becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach.
  • To connect and develop India’s Northeast


India’s primary interests in Myanmar

  • To build an economic and security relationship that prevent Myanmar from slipping into the orbit of China.
  • Ensure the Myanmar military’s cooperation in preventing Northeastern militants, most notably Naga insurgents, from using Myanmar as a safe haven.
  • Support the country’s transition into a full-fledged federal democracy.
  • Ameliorate the plight of the Rohingyas as well as ensure the tense relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar do not spiral out of control.


Economic Relations

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries has, for long, remained at around $2 billion.
  • Chinese, Singaporean, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese businesses have actively seized business opportunities in Myanmar.
  • Pulses form the single largest item in Myanmar’s limited export basket.
  • ndian businesses could invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.


Defence Relations

  • India and Myanmar have been trying to strengthen their defense ties over the past few years.
  • Over 200 Myanmar military officers have been trained in the medical, airforce and navy fields in India.
  • Myanmar has acquired rocket launchers, night vision systems, radar and engineering equipment, including $37.9 million worth of torpedoes, from India.


Cultural Relations

The 11th-century Ananda Temple in Myanmar was damaged during an earthquake last year and is being renovated with India’s assistance.

People to people ties are the strength of India-Myanmar relations

No other country has committed as much in grant-in-aid to Myanmar as India. These include:

  • Kaladan multi-modal corridor
  • Repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road
  • Construction of the 120-km Kalewa-Yargyi corridor d. Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram.
  • Unfortunately, the projects have not been completed in time. As a result, India has not got due credit.


India’s assistance in Capacity Building

  • Capacity building has been accorded priority, with several new institutions set up for agricultural education, information technology and industrial training that have benefited Myanmar youth immensely.
  • Myanmar Institute of Information Technology set up in Mandalay with the collaboration of IIIT Bangalore has been a success with all its graduates finding ready employment.
  • The Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education set up in collaboration with India’s ICAR is a fine example of pooling research efforts on pulses and oilseeds.
  • India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar. This is an indication of Myanmar’s growing significance in India.
  • With the expansion of training facilities and supply of defence equipment needed by the Myanmar military, India has consistently strengthened defence ties.
  • India’s timely help of medicines and equipment to fight the corona pandemic.
  • A number of Indian companies have also set up operations in Myanmar, including oil and gas players like the ONGC Videsh and GAIL.
  • India has also agreed to train Myanmar army officers and allow them to study at military academies in India.


Concerns / Challenges

  • India suffers from an image of being unable in making its presence felt on the ground.
  • The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw may seem a routine diplomatic activity.
  • However, establishing a permanent presence in the capital does matter.
  • The Indian government is concerned about Rohingya immigrants in the country
  • Around 40,000 Rohingyas are said to be staying illegally in India.
  • Negotiations on the deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar are a point of contention.
  • For India, the balancing act between Bangladesh and Myanmar remains one of the keys to its overall approach to the Rohingya issue.
  • Economic cooperation has developed, but it still stays at a sub-optimal level.
  • A significant part of India’s Kaladan multimodal project (KMMTTP) passes through the Rakhine state. There is delay in the completion of the project.
  • Lack of basic infrastructure and low trading volume at the Indian border.
  • The India Intelligence Agency stated that the smuggling of light arms, drugs and counterfeit currencies have been spotted along the border.
  • Beijing is investing in projects to improve the Sittwe–Kunming route.
  • Momentum of the Belt and Road Initiative may end India’s East Act Policy like Obama’s pivot to Asia.
  • Both sides share a long maritime boundary and land border, which has led to concerns around transnational issues.


Way Forward

  • Strengthening existing cooperation in areas of security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, infrastructure and energy, and culture
  • Boosting cooperation in areas like training and capacity-building of Myanmar’s military.
  • Implementing the recommendations of Kofi Annan Advisory Commission report on Rohingya refugee issue.
  • India can help in improving the socio-economic conditions in the Rakhine state and also create employment opportunities.
  • The two countries must start negotiating for the smooth movement of goods and vehicles
  • With Myanmar’s government emphasising higher education and vocational training, more Indianassisted institutions can be setup in the country
  • Border trade need to become more formalised with single-window clearances and easier currency arrangements.
  • The border haats can energise exchange of local produce.
  • Cross- border bus services can promote people-to-people connectivity.
  • Cross-border trade in services can be boosted in sectors like medicine, diagnostics, education and training for which there is a large market.
  • All this will mean that the Northeast will gain from the Act East policy.


Military seizes power in Myanmar coup:

Context of the issue:

Myanmar’s powerful military chief had raised doubts about last year’s election results even before the polls were held.

“We are in a situation where we need to be cautious about the outcome,” he told the local media before the November 8 elections.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the polls by winning almost 80% of the vote, while the Army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) suffered a humiliating defeat.

The USDP did not accept the result. The military backed the USDP’s allegations of fraud, without offering any evidence.


Brief Background: Why the transition failed?

  • The political climate in the junta-led Myanmar started changing around 2010. In 2008, the military had written a new Constitution that made sure the Generals’ interests would be protected even if there is a transition.
  • Than Shwe, who had been ruling the country since 1992, shook up the power structure, promoted young soldiers who were loyal to him and conducted elections under the new Constitution.
  • The NLD, which had not recognised the Constitution, boycotted the 2010 election, which the USDP won.
  • In the next five years, the Army loosened its grip on the government and society. Political prisoners, including Ms. Suu Kyi, were released. Media censorship was eased.
  • S. President Barack Obama visited Myanmar in 2012, signalling a thaw in relations between Myanmar and the U.S. Ms. Suu Kyi’s party also changed its earlier position and accepted the Army-written Constitution.
  • The NLD won the 2015 election, the country’s first free and fair election participated by multiple parties, and formed the government, raising hopes that the country is on its way to full transition to democracy.
  • But the 2008 Constitution has enough clauses to prevent such a change. According to the Constitution, the President must have military experience and the President himself, his spouse or children “shall not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country”. Ms. Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British citizens, cannot become President.
  • The Constitution also mandates that the Defence and Interior Ministries would be controlled by the military.
  • Also, 25% of the total seats in Parliament (166 out of the 664-member house) are reserved for the military, giving it a veto over any move to change the Constitution.
  • So even when the Army allowed power to be transferred to an elected government, it made sure that it would continue to drive defence and internal security policies, and that the USDP, its political vehicle, has an edge over other parties in elections with the reserved seats in Parliament. But the Generals wanted more.


What has happened now, and why?

  • The military is now back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency.
  • It seized control following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
  • The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud.
  • They declared a state of emergency for a year, and took power in their hands.
  • The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims. The coup was staged as a new session of parliament was set to open.
  • Ms Suu Kyi is thought to be under house arrest. Several charges have been filed against her, including breaching import and export laws and possession of unlawful communication devices. Many other NLD officials have also been detained.
  • Myanmar, which started a fragile transition to democracy 10 years ago after decades of brutal military dictatorship, is back in the hands of the Generals.


What has the international reaction been?

  • The UK, EU and Australia are among those to have condemned the military takeover.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”.
  • US President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions. But not everyone has reacted in this way.
  • China blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup. The country, which has previously opposed international intervention in Myanmar, urged all sides to “resolve differences”. Its Xinhua news agency described the changes as a “cabinet reshuffle”.
  • Neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, have said it is an “internal matter”.


India expresses ‘deep concern’ over military coup in Myanmar:

  • India expressed “deep concern” over the reports of an unfolding military coup in Myanmar.
  • India’s official response came hours after the Myanmar military declared a state of emergency in the Southeast Asian country and detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar.
  • We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely.
  • India had shown commitment to build robust relationship with Myanmar over the past two decades which intensified after the democratic process began in 2011.
  • On January 22, India sent 15 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine to assist Myanmar in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
  • On October 15, 2020, India announced the handing over of a kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuvir to the Myanmar navy. The Indian gift is the first submarine for the Myanmar navy.
  • However, civil-military tension in Myanmar had been increasing since the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy led by Ms. Suu Kyi over reports of electoral fraud.
  • Myanmar’s newly elected Parliament was expected to meet on Monday but the military junta moved in the early hours and declared the state of emergency.
  • The NLD rule in Myanmar coincided with the military campaign against the Rohingya refugees of the Rakhine province which led to the displacement of at least one million ethnic Rohingya citizens of Myanmar who have taken refuge in Bangladesh and other countries.


Way Ahead: What’s next?

The Army says it has declared an emergency as the NLD government failed to act on its complaints on voter fraud.

It has promised elections, without offering any time frame. But the NLD has called for protests against the coup.

The U.S., which under President Obama helped the transition, has reacted harshly. India has expressed “deep concern”.

But if China’s response is any indication, the Generals won’t face any heat from Beijing. This means, they could circumvent pressure from the U.S., even economic sanctions, by moving closer to China, which is already making huge investments in Myanmar.

Ms. Suu Kyi had tried to buy peace with the Generals in her first term, especially on the Rohingya issue.

She defended the Army crackdown on the Rohingya, which UN investigators said was executed with “genocidal intent”. But the Generals were still not pleased.

But Suu Kyi’s popularity and an energised NLD that was in power for five years would be an impediment for them. And their own unpopularity, a burden


Implications for India:

For India, the return to military rule by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Army) and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the political leadership of the National League of Democracy (NLD) are a repeat of events 30 years ago.

What lies ahead for India?

India’s reaction is likely to be different this time. India does care about democracy in Myanmar, but that’s a luxury it knows it will not be able to afford for the time being. Why? Because,

  1. India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military has become extremely close, and it would be difficult to “burn bridges” with them given their assistance in securing the North East frontiers from insurgent groups.
  2. Changed image of Ms. Suu Kyi herself: Her image as a democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged by her time in office, where she failed to push back the military, and even defended the Army’s pogrom against Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2015.
  3. Benefits for China: A harsh reaction from India, on the lines of that from the U.S., which has threatened action against those responsible for the “coup” unless they revoke the military’s takeover, would only benefit China.
  4. Apart from strategic concerns, India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries (For example: India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport network, as well as a plan for a Special Economic Zone at the Sittwe deep-water port).
  5. Besides, India still hopes to help resolve the issue of Rohingya refugees that fled to Bangladesh, while some still live in India, and will want to continue to engage the Myanmar government on that.


Myanmar’s military Constitution:

It was the military that drafted the 2008 Constitution, and put it to a questionable referendum in April that year.

  • The Constitution was the military’s “roadmap to democracy”, which it had been forced to adopt under increasing pressure from the west.
  • It was also due to its own realisation that opening up Myanmar to the outside world was now no longer an option but a dire economic necessity.
  • But the military made sure to safeguard in the Constitution its own role and supremacy in national affairs.
  • Under its provisions, the military reserves for itself 25 per cent of seats in both Houses of Parliament, to which it appoints serving military officials.
  • Also, a political party which is a proxy for the military contests elections.

India-Vietnam relations have been exceptionally friendly and cordial since their foundations were laid by founding fathers of the two countries – President Ho Chi Minh and President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Nehru. The traditionally close and cordial relations have their historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from foreign rule and the national struggle for independence.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. President Ho Chi Minh went to India in February 1958.  President Rajendra Prasad visited Vietnam in 1959. In recent times, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides.  Trade and economic linkages continue to grow. India’s thrust under the ‘Look East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends. Vietnam is an important regional partner in South East Asia.

India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.


Bilateral Relations

  • Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to 2nd century.
  • India and Vietnam have robust trade and economic relations with bilateral trade of USD 12.8 billion in 2017-18.
  • Trade and economic linkages continue to grow.
  • Defence Cooperation has emerged as a significant pillar of India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam.
  • Military exchanges between India and Vietnam are quite robust. The two sides conducted their first-ever bilateral land warfare and naval exercises in early 2018.
  • Indian ships regularly make friendly port calls to Vietnam.
  • For the first time, a Vietnamese ship participated in the International Fleet Review at Vishakhapatnam, in February 2016.
  • The Indian Business Chamber (INCHAM) is an organisation of Indians living in Vietnam, primarily to promote trade and business interactions.
  • The Indian Cultural Centre was opened in Hanoi in September 2016, with the objective of strengthening India’s cultural presence in Vietnam.


Significance of the Relationship

  • India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
  • Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy, and key interlocutor in ASEAN.
  • Over the years, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides.
  • India’s thrust under the ‘Act East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends.
  • India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.
  • Both India and Vietnam possess the capacity to find compatibility in areas promoting defence cooperation and infrastructure simultaneously.
  • Vietnam, which is under maritime pressure from China’s activities in the South China Sea (SCS), wants India to deepen its military engagement further.
  • Vietnam has backed India’s permanent membership in UN Security Council.
  • India has been consistently supporting the Freedom of Navigation, unimpeded flow of commerce and it is supporting Vietnamese and some positions of some other nations in relation to South China Sea. India is adhering to international laws and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • Vietnam supports India’s Act East Policy and it believes that India can do a lot of balancing in South Asia as far as other powers are concerned. India is expected by Vietnam and other South East Asian countries to play a stronger role in the region – on the strategic (Indo Pacific issue) and on the economic side. India’s Assistance to Vietnam
  • The Archaeological Survey of India is helping Vietnam in the preservation and conservation of some of the temples
  • Since 1976, India has offered several Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Vietnam over the years on concessional terms and conditions.
  • Vietnam has been a large recipient of training programmes under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.


Focus on Sub-Regionalism

  • As ASEAN continues to focus on its centrality in the region, there will be shifts in smaller members of ASEAN due to China’s rise.
  • Vietnam is focussing on both sub-regionalism and regionalism as the core of its priorities.
  • India too looks at both sub-regionalism and regionalism as priority avenues to pursue its foreign policy.
  • The India-Vietnam Joint Statement of March 2018 reiterates the focus given to sub-regionalism
  • Another area that is emerging is the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam growth triangle sub-regional cooperation.
  • India and Vietnam can jointly explore the potential for enhancing capacity building and providing technical assistance and training within this sub-regional grouping.


Common Concerns

  • Bilateral economic ties and trade need to be improved more between India and ASEAN countries if strategic relations are to be improved. China has relatively better economic relations with South East Asian countries which is a cause of concern for India.
  • Shared common security perceptions and strategic convergence in Indo-Pacific region propel both the countries to have good defence and security cooperation. Maritime security cooperation was talked in ASEAN India commemorative summit. Vietnam and India have been cooperating in many ways like in Milan exercises. Many other South East Asian countries are also participating in these exercises. India has been providing training to Vietnamese submarines
  • An area of potential convergence for both Vietnam and India is health care. Vietnam has highlighted the importance of linking economic growth to universal health care, whereby 80% population would be covered by health insurance. India too, since 2011, has been focussing on the need to deliver accessible and affordable health insurance to weaker sections of society.  A potential area of convergence in the realm of health care through joint public-private partnership agreements can be explored by the two countries.
  • Today there is increasing security concerns in the areas of maritime security and adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • Energy sector is a crucial area where much can be done like deals of ONGC with Vietnamese companies. But, China has been raising concerns about this.


Time bound delivery of specific projects between India and ASEAN countries should be looked at. Relation roles in the fields of political, economic, strategic field including defence and security which are in the upward trajectory. It can be expected that political relations get improved in the coming 5 years when the diplomatic relations complete 50 years between the two nations. But India needs to improve economic ties with Vietnam to achieve the set target up to 2020. Scholars have now been saying that BIMSTEC which has two South East Asian countries namely, Myanmar and Thailand should consider to expand itself to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Then it will be a very powerful body and lasting link between India and ASEAN.




The close ties between India and Singapore have a history rooted in strong commercial, cultural and people-to-people links. India’s connection with Singapore dates back to the Cholas. The more modern relationship is attributed to Sir Stamford Raffles who, in 1819, established a trading station in Singapore on the route of the Straits of Malacca which became a colony under British India, governed from Kolkata (1830-1867). The colonial connection is reflected in a similarity of institutions and practices, usage of English and the presence of a large Indian community. India was one of the first countries to recognize Singapore in 1965.

Following the conclusion of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) of 2005, this robust relationship was elevated to a Strategic Partnership in 2015


Framework of the Bilateral Relationship

  • India-Singapore relations are based on shared values and approaches, economic opportunities and convergence of interests on key issues. Political engagement is regular. Defence relations are particularly strong.
  • Economic and technological ties are extensive and growing.
  • Cultural and human links are very vibrant. There are more than 20 regular bilateral mechanisms, dialogues and exercises.
  • There is great convergence on a broad range of international issues and both are members of a number of forums, including East Asia Summit, G20, Commonwealth, IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) and IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium)


Defence and Security Cooperation

  • India and Singapore have a longstanding and comprehensive partnership, which includes,
    • Annual Ministerial and Secretary level dialogues; Staff level talks between three wings of Armed forces;
    • training of Singapore Army and Air force in India (10th edition in 2019) every year;
    • annual exercises including India’s longest uninterrupted naval exercise with any other country (26th edition in 2019); ship visits from Navy and Coast Guard
  • Singapore’s participates in IONS and multilateral Exercise MILAN hosted by Indian Navy.
  • Singapore’s membership of IORA and India’s membership of ADDM+ (ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting – Plus) provides platform for both countries to coordinate positions on regional issues of mutual concern.
  • New developments include the inaugural Trilateral Maritime Exercise between India, Singapore and Thailand (SITMEX), announced by PM Modi in his Keynote address at the 2018 Shangri La Dialogue in September 2019 in Andaman Sea with the intention to conduct it annual at alternative locations
  • India and Singapore share similar concerns about the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism and have found it mutually beneficial to evolve a broad framework of security cooperation.


Science & Technology Cooperation

  • ISRO launched Singapore’s indigenously built micro-satellites since 2011.
  • MOUs have been signed in areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing and big data analytics to improve healthcare, cybersecurity, automation, mobility, smart energy systems and e-governance


Trade, Economic and Development Cooperation

  • Major areas of cooperation have been (i) Scale up Trade & Investment; (ii) Speed up Connectivity; (iii) Smart Cities & Urban Rejuvenation; (iv) Skill development; and (v) State focus.
  • Singapore is India’s largest trade partner in ASEAN. It is the leading source of Foreign Direct Investment, among the largest sources of External Commercial Borrowings and Foreign Portfolio Investment
  • Bilateral trade expanded after the conclusion of CECA from USD 6.7 billion in FY 2004-05 to USD 27.85 billion in 2018-19.
  • . In the fiscal 2019-20, total inflow until September 2019 was USD 8.01 billion while Cumulative FDI from Singapore into India (April 2000- September 2019) is USD 91.02 billion, accounting for 20% of total inflows into India
  • About 9000 Indian companies are registered in Singapore. 6 PSUs, 9 banks, India Tourism, CII, FICCI, Air India, Jet Airways have their offices in Singapore. More than 440 companies from Singapore are registered in India.
  • Singapore is now directly connected to 15 Indian cities by 8 airlines with more than 500 weekly flights both ways.
  • India the third largest source in tourism for Singapore.
  • Singaporean companies continue to participate in a number of smart city, urban planning, logistics and infrastructure projects. Singapore is working with Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra in preparing Master Plans for townships.
  • Singapore is working with the Central and state Governments as well as Government organisations to establish skill development centres in various sectors
  • FinTech & Innovation: Cooperation in the areas of technology, innovation, fintech and startups have grown. In 2019. A Pilot demo of BHIM UPI QR based payments was launched in Singapore on 13 November during the 2019 Fintech Festival


Cultural Cooperation

  • Cultural exchanges include performing arts, theatre, museum exchanges, art, languages, and youth exchanges
  • Regional and community based organizations are also active in promoting language teaching, yoga and arts.


Indian Community

  • Ethnic Indians constitute about 9.1 % or around 3.5 lakhs of the resident population of 3.9 million in Singapore.
  • In addition, among the 1.6 million foreigners residing in Singapore, about 21 % or around 3.5 lakhs are Indian expatriates holding Indian passports, mostly serving in financial services, IT, students, construction and marine sectors.
  • Singapore has the highest concentration of IIT and IIM alumni in any one city outside India.
  • There are about 1 lakh Indian migrant workers in Singapore. Singapore, however does not feature in the ECR category.
  • Tamil is one of the four official languages of Singapore.
  • Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi are also taught in schools. Welfare and well-being of the Indian nationals, including Indian workers feature prominently in consular responsibilities of the Mission.


  • India and Indonesia have shared two millennia of close cultural and commercial contacts. During our respective struggles for independence, the national leaderships of India and Indonesia led by Jawaharlal Nehru and President Sukarno collaborated closely in supporting the cause of Asian and African independence and later after the two countries became independent, together Prime Minister Nehru and President Sukarno laid the foundation of the Afro-Asian and Non-Aligned Movements at the Bandung Conference in 1955.
  • Since the adoption of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ in 1991, there has been a rapid development of bilateral relations in political, security, defence, commercial and cultural fields.
  • The multi-faceted relationship got an added fillip with the signing of the ‘Joint Declaration on Establishing a Strategic Partnership’ in 2005 during the State Visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
  • The closest distance between India and Indonesia is about 17 nautical miles


  • Strategically, and security and trade-wise, the Indonesian archipelago of more than 18,000 islands is of vital importance to India. Four vital straits running through Indonesia control so much of India’s links to South East Asia.


  • In trade and business terms, Indonesia is India’s second largest trading partner in ASEAN and bilateral trade stands at 20 billion dollars. The glorious past and shared cultural ties of both nations create a strong platform for cooperation in the future.
  • In 2005 both the countries agreed to become Strategic Partners and in 2013 India and Indonesia have jointly assessed its potential through the Five Initiatives for Strengthening the India–Indonesia Strategic Partnership based on shared commitment to values of democracy, pluralism and diversity and having economies with strong complementarities and challenges.


  • Since the new government took over in 2014 the engagement between the two countries have been enhanced.
  • The current economic relationship between India and ASEAN countries presents a multitude of industrial, commercial, and investment opportunities.
  • Both the countries have welcomed ASEAN’s plans to establish economic and political relationships with neighbouring nations, and have worked on increasing bilateral trade, promoted foreign investment, and strengthened diplomatic relations with all ASEAN members. The India – ASEAN relations now are poised to scale new heights.


  • As the largest ASEAN state accounting for over 37% of population and over 33% of combined GDP, and as a fellow member of G-20, Indonesia is of particular interest to India.
  • Bilateral relationship between the two countries is a key element for entire ASEAN region. India and Indonesia have similar aspirations to have an open trading system through global organizations like the WTO.
  • Both the countries have shown a strong commitment, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Indonesia has joined hands with India to reform the United Nations, particularly its Security Council.
  • The role of the United Nations particularly its Security Council needs to reflect the requirement of developing countries to have a greater say in decision making.
  • Despite the large size and rapid growth, the trade and investment between India and Indonesia remains modest.
  • There is a need to synergize our efforts in the areas of economy and business to correct the sectoral and directional imbalance of our trade and to further diversify it.
  • The vast consumer market, youthful and skilled human resources and expertise in the field of information technology of India coupled with Indonesia’s natural resources, youthful population and strategic location would provide a platform for enhanced economic engagement. The innovative spirit of Indian industry, backed by a strong government research and development push and a network of quality education institutions, make India and the Indian companies the most promising business partners today.


  • India is the largest buyer of crude palm oil from Indonesia and also imports coal, minerals, rubber, pulp and hydrocarbon in significant quantities. India exports refined petroleum products, maize, commercial vehicles, telecommunication equipment, oil seeds to Indonesia. There is a need to balance our bilateral trade as India’s import from Indonesia was US$ 15 billion against an export of US$ 4 billion in 2014-15.


  • India has active cultural centres in Jakarta and Bali. From time to time, the Indian Government has also offered training under ITEC and TCS of Colombo Plan and Indonesia is a major recipient of the scholarships. In 2015-16, 100 ITEC and Colombo Plan slots have been allocated Indonesia. Over 1300 Indonesian officials have attended training programmes in India under these schemes over the past decade. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) also offers 20 to 22 scholarships every year to Indonesian students for pursuing higher studies at undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral and post doctoral levels, under its general cultural scholarship scheme; and this has been happening since 1994-95. So far, over 200 Indonesian students have availed the ICCR scholarship.
  • The spreading tide of extremism and terrorism is a threat both nations face and successfully dealing with such threats requires strong cooperation among like-minded partners.
  • Both nations also face similar economic development issues and governance challenges. The Asia Pacific region and the world as whole would benefit from having greater cooperation between India and Indonesia.
  • There is a considerable potential for expanding trade in the areas of automotive components, automobiles, engineering products, IT, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology and healthcare sectors. Given their strategic significance, Infrastructure development and energy, both traditional and renewable, are key areas for enhancing the bilateral cooperation.


  • Both the countries should put in place suitable policies to encourage private sectors to make investments in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors and for this the two governments must be willing to provide a predictable and comprehensive legal and taxation frame-work.
  • There is tremendous potential for enhancing our defence ties. Indonesia has played host to ships of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard on several occasions in recent years. This cooperation should be continued through technical, human resource development, capacity building and contributing to the development of Indonesian capacities both physical and human.
  • The economic and geo-political centre of gravity of the world has shifted towards the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, with the region showing unparalleled dynamism in economic, political, security and demographic terms.
  • The Indian Ocean littoral states have also witnessed sustained growth over the past few years. Given the growing volume of bilateral maritime trade and a common maritime boundary along the Andaman Sea, India and Indonesia are natural partners in ensuring the development and security of the Indian Ocean and the pacific littoral region.
  • All trade routes and the sea lanes must be protected from traditional and non-traditional threats and all countries using these international waters must act with responsibility and restraint.
  • Indonesia’s idea of a Maritime Axis and India’s commitment to the Mausam Project which links the countries of the Indian Ocean can bring benefit to all the Indian Ocean Countries.
  • India and Indonesia are one of the founder members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the apex pan-Indian Ocean multilateral forum and Indonesia is its current chair. Indonesia, given its strategic location, can be a bridge between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. As one of the most important countries of the Asia-Pacific rim- Indonesia is in an advantageous position to connect a vibrant South Asia to the Pacific region.
  • Non-traditional threats such as piracy, smuggling, transnational crimes and drug-trafficking are on the rise and pose a challenge for both the countries and require strong and determined, coordinated action to control.
  • The Asia Pacific region and the world as whole would benefit from having greater cooperation between India and Indonesia to positively shape a fluid regional security environment, including through partnerships with other like-minded countries and by strengthening regional institutions like ASEAN.
  • Infrastructure development and energy security are also key areas for cooperation for emerging economies like India and Indonesia. These sectors allow for both our countries to collaborate and benefit from each other’s expertise.
  • Infrastructure stimulation programmes launched by the Government of India, like the mission to develop 100 Smart Cities, upgrade infrastructure development in urban and rural areas and enhance nationwide connectivity through the ‘Digital India’ programme, have created massive opportunities for foreign partners in the Indian economy.


India and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations on 26 November 1949, shortly after both countries gained independence [Philippines in 1946 and India in 1947]. The year 2019 thus marks the completion of seventy years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Relations between the two countries have been friendly and problem free. It would be fair to say though that despite historical shared values and commonalities, such as anticolonialism, South-South cooperation, a strong democratic polity, an independent judiciary and press, and the wide use of the English language, the full potential of the relationship between the two countries is yet far from attainment and is reflective of a lack of informed knowledge about one another.

When India launched her Look East Policy and intensified partnership with ASEAN in 1992, this also resulted in intensified relations with countries in the region including the Philippines, both bilaterally and in the regional context. With the Act East Policy initiated in 2014, the relationship with Philippines has diversified further into political-security; trade and industry and people-to-people realms


Political, Security and Defence:

  • High level visits and interactions between India and the Philippines have seen intensification especially since the initiation of ASEAN-India Summit level partnership and establishment of East Asia Summit, of which India is a founding member.
  • 5 MoU’s on Defence Industry and Logistics Cooperation, MoU between ICWA and FSI, MoU on Cooperation on Agriculture, MoU on MSME and MoU between ICCR and Univ of Philippines for setting up a chair of India studies , have been concluded
  • Government of India conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award to Mr. Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council in the Philippines for his contribution in the field of Trade and Industry
  • The mainstay of bilateral defence cooperation continue to be capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegations and naval and coast guard ship visits

Trade and Commerce:

  • Economic relations between the two countries have grown rapidly in recent years although still modest given the potential that exists.
  • India-Philippines trade in 2018-19 has been at around US $ 2.32 billion (Exports from India to Philippines-US $ 1743 million and Imports from Philippines by India- US $ 581 million).
  • A number of growth drivers suggest a major and sustained growth in two-way trade and investment in future, helped by the conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade in Services and Investment Agreements.
  • Indian investment in the Philippines is mainly in the areas of textiles, IT&ITES, Infrastructure (airports), chemicals, automobiles and pharmaceuticals
  • The earliest major Indian investment in the Philippines was the Aditya Birla Group in textiles & Chemicals (Indo Phil Group).
  • Tata Motors and Mahindra have made their presence felt in the Automobile sector. Collaboration in the BPO sector has grown exponentially in the last ten years or so. Several Indian IT companies have already set up BPO operations in the Philippines and these include companies like WIPRO, TCS, L&T Infotech, Innodata, IL&FS Genpact, Infosys, HGS, Tech Mahindra
  • Indian companies have a strong presence in Pharma (Generics) where Pharma majors like Dabur Pharma, Lupin, Torrent, ZydusCadilla, and Claris Life sciences have set up liaison office to promote their products.
  • Various Joint Working Groups [JWG] have been set up and their meetings, particularly the JWG on Trade and Investment, on Agriculture, on Health, on Tourism and on Renewable Energy are expected to identify new growth and partnership areas between government and industry in both countries and contribute towards enhanced two-way growth in trade and investment.


Culture & People to People Relations:

  • Philippines is one of the beneficiary countries of programmes under ITEC and Colombo Plan. During 2018-19, Philippines utilsed as many as 90 civilian training slots under ITEC and Colombo Plan.
  • Similarly, about 35 slots are allotted for defence personnel out of which the majority were utilised.
  • To date almost a thousand Filipino nationals have benefited from training and exposure under these schemes, covering a wide range of technical courses, such as rural development, agriculture, renewable energy, small scale industries, banking, finance and management, quality control and marketing, planning and public administration, textiles, parliamentary studies and legislative practices, computer software, water resources management, defence, etc.
  • There exists a Cultural Exchange Programme between the two countries and an Executive Programme on Cultural Exchanges
  • There has been significant increase in people-to-people links between India and the Philippines.
  • The number of Indian tourists visiting the Philippines has shown a rapid growth in the past few years and now numbers about 120,000 annually


Indian Community:

  • The Indian community in the Philippines, according to the Bureau of Immigration, is estimated to be about 1, 30,000. Around 5,000 persons of Indian origin have acquired Filipino citizenship. Punjabis and Sindhis, constitute the bulk of the community. The past ten years has seen a growing number of professionals, and their families estimated in the range of about five to six thousand, who are working in the Philippines, for Indian companies, organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, International Rice Research Institute, UN agencies, as also in multinational corporations, BPOs and with local Filipino companies\
  • The Philippines is also beginning to emerge as a destination for Indian students. There are more than 12,000 Indian students pursuing medical courses in various universities in the Philippines
  • The resident Indian community is active in celebration of Indian festivals and various social events. They also undertake social welfare activities and come to the assistance of people in distress during natural calamities. The major association is the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
  • A number of other associations also exist such as Indian Ladies Club, Bharati Indian Expats Women’s Association and spiritual organisations such as Sri Satya Sai Organization, Art of Living, Chinmaya Ashram, Brahma Kumaris, Siddhi Yoga and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.




  • India and Taiwan are celebrating 25 years of their partnership.
  • Though mutual efforts between Delhi and Taipei have enabled a range of bilateral agreements covering agriculture, investment, customs cooperation, civil aviation, industrial cooperation and other areas, the time has come to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.

 Cultivating political framework

  • Creating a political framework is a prerequisite to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.
  • Both partners have deepened mutual respect, with democracy and diversity as the key principles for collective growth.
  • The shared faith in freedom, human rights, justice, and rule of law continues to embolden the partnership.


Need to work on bettering of India-Taiwan relations:

  • China’s hegemony:
    • The India-China border stand-off in the Galwan Valley, following China’s incursion into Indian territory, is a reminder of India’s perennial problems with China.
    • The recent violent clashes are an indication of Beijing’s hardline approach towards India.
    • The clashes have confirmed is that this is not just about differing perceptions of the boundary, but China’s blatant attempts to change the status quo.
    • This is in clear violation of the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China border areas signed in 1993.
  • Reducing dependence on China:
    • Enhancing Taiwan-India relations is consistent with the Taiwanese government’s efforts to decrease economic reliance on China and with Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy (NSP), which improves upon the efforts of several of her predecessors.
    • Taiwanese businesses are increasingly interested in shifting business ties from China to India and policies that facilitate such cooperation could provide mutual benefits.
  • Geo- Strategic:
    • The unfolding dynamic around Taiwan will have significant consequences for India’s Act East Policy and its emerging role in the Indo-Pacific Region.
    • Strengthening Taiwan-India ties within the rubric of the NSP also overlaps with Taiwan’s relationships with Australia, United States, and Japan.
    • Because these three countries, along with India, have formed an Indo-Pacific entente cordiale called the “Quad” to maintain a rules-based order in the region, Taiwan-India ties can benefit from the positive synergy of collaboration in areas of trade, research, and even defense.
    • Moreover, India and Taiwan may see a convergence of security interests that could be further developed through interactions between the strategic communities on both sides.
    • A stronger relationship between India and Taiwan could increase tourism, improve research and development, and promote educational ties, all of which are mutually beneficial.
    • For the first time, Taiwan has officially started looking towards the six South Asian countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India is a steering wheel for Taiwan’s deepening engagement in the South Asian region. 
  • Geo-Economic:
    • The unfolding trade war between the US and China is compelling Taiwan to accelerate its plans to move its large manufacturing bases away from China to Southeast Asia and India.
    • For India to promote industrial production and create jobs, the Taiwan connection with its impressive small and medium enterprises is more than opportune.
    • Taiwan’s GDP is about $600 billion and twice the size of Pakistan’s economy. And few entities in the international system are today as eager and capable of boosting India’s domestic economic agenda.
  • Talent and technology:
    • Taiwan has embarked on a big mission to attract skilled workers. With a declining birth rate and growing emigration, Taiwan’s industry, education, and technology development could do with Indian engineers and scientists.
    • The synergy in human resources provides the basis for massive collaborations between the universities, research institutions and technology enclaves in the two countries.

 Mutual Assistance

  • Maintaining air quality has become a mammoth challenge for the Indian government.
  • Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies.
  • Such methods are applied to convert agricultural waste into value-added and environmentally beneficial renewable energy or biochemicals.
  • This will be a win-win situation as it will help in dealing with air pollution and also enhance farmers’ income.

Cultural Exchange

  • India and Taiwan need to deepen people-to-people connect
  • Cultural exchange is the cornerstone of any civilisational exchange.
  • Tourism is the key tool in this exchange. The Buddhist pilgrimage tour needs better connectivity and visibility, in addition to showcasing incredible India’s diversity.
  • With the Taiwan Tourism Bureau partnering with Mumbai Metro, Taiwan is trying to raise awareness about the country and increase the inflow of Indian tourists.

Deepening economic ties

  • Trade relations have grown. India’s huge market provides Taiwan with investment opportunities.
  • Taiwan’s reputation as the world leader in semiconductor and electronics complements India’s leadership in ITES (Information Technology-Enabled Services).
  • This convergence of interests will help create new opportunities.
  • India’s strides in the ease of business ranking not only provide Taiwan with lucrative business opportunities but also help it mitigate its over-dependence on one country for investment opportunities.
  • The signing of a bilateral trade agreement in 2018 was an important milestone.

Concerns in the relations:

  • India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet as it adheres to the One-China policy.
  • India’s China policy and its focus on stabilizing relations with Beijing have led to the marginalization of Taiwan.
  • When China protested the visit of an all-women parliamentarians’ delegation from Taiwan to India in 2018, the momentum in India-Taiwan ties further slowed down.
  • Taiwan has been an excellent example of containing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, Beijing has been unjustly blocking Taipei’s participation at the WHO. India too has not tried to engage Taiwan in dealing with the pandemic. Through its response to Covid-19, the island nation has shown that it is beneficial to engage with it.
  • Taiwan’s possible role in the emerging Indo-Pacific order has been under-appreciated.


Possible measures to better India-Taiwan ties:

  • Political will: The shared faith in freedom, human rights, justice, and rule of law continues to embolden their partnership. To make this relationship more meaningful, both sides can create a group of empowered persons or a task force to chart out a road map in a given time frame.
  • Electronics trade: India’s huge market provides Taiwan with investment opportunities. Taiwan’s reputation as the world leader in semiconductor and electronics complements India’s leadership in ITES (Information Technology-Enabled Services). This convergence of interests will help create new opportunities. India’s recent strides in the ease of business ranking not only provide Taiwan with lucrative business opportunities but also help it mitigate its over-dependence on one country for investment opportunities.
  • Reducing regulatory cholesterol: There are around 200 Taiwanese companies in the field of electronics, construction, petrochemicals, machine, Information and Communications Technology and auto parts operating in India. Despite the huge potential, Taiwan investments have been paltry in India. Taiwanese firms find the regulatory and labour regime daunting with stray incidents such as the incident in the Wistron plant last year creating confusion and mistrust.
  • Boosting avenues of Traditional medicine: India and Taiwan already collaborate in the area of traditional medicine. The time is ripe to expand cooperation in the field of healthcare.
  • Fighting Air pollution: Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies. Such methods are applied to convert agricultural waste into valueadded and environmentally beneficial renewable energy or biochemicals. This will be a win-win situation as it will help in dealing with air pollution and also enhance farmers’ income.
  • Organic farming: New Delhi and Taipei can also undertake joint research and development initiatives in the field of organic farming.
  • Tourism and Cultural exchange: The Buddhist pilgrimage tour needs better connectivity and visibility, in addition to showcasing incredible India’s diversity. This will accelerate the flow of Taiwanese tourists.


Way forward:

  • It’s true that India does indeed adhere to the ‘One China’ principle. But that shouldn’t stop us from expanding appropriate relations with Taiwan which enjoys de facto sovereignty.
  • India’s foreign policy priorities, particularly with regard to the Indo-Pacific, should accommodate Taiwan.
  • Along with military preparedness and aligning interests with key countries, Taiwan needs to be included prominently in its long-term strategy towards China.
  • Broad support from the Taiwanese public is necessary for increasing trade and people-to-people contacts, as well as for pushing Taiwan’s ruling parties to increase ties with India.


The ties with Taiwan should not be solely viewed through China’s lens, the current border clashes with China has given a chance to both India and Taiwan to introspect on their policies and reach out to each other. India can no longer just rely on the transactional and need-based policies of major powers. It has to explore more options. This makes sense when Taiwan is willing to strengthen ties with India and even domestic debate is tilting in favour of this. It is high time India engages Taiwan bilaterally and also positions India-Taiwan ties in the regional context

What is ASEAN?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states. The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”. ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.


Established in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers. Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Institution Mechanism:

Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.

ASEAN Summit: The supreme policy making body of ASEAN. As the highest level of authority in ASEAN, the Summit sets the direction for ASEAN policies and objectives. Under the Charter, the Summit meets twice a year.

ASEAN Ministerial Councils: The Charter established four important new Ministerial bodies to support the Summit.

  1. ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC).
  2. ASEAN Political-Security Community Council.
  3. ASEAN Economic Community Council.
  4. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council.



Significance of the grouping:

3rd largest market in the world – larger than EU and North American markets. 6th largest economy in the world, 3rd in Asia. Free-trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Fourth most popular investment destination globally.


ASEAN’s role in Regional Peace and Security

Southeast Asia is a diverse and complex region where every major culture and civilisation of the world finds a place.

Modern Southeast Asia presents an example of varied cultures living together and thriving, despite the region experiencing decades of conflicts.

The year 2017 marks the 50th year of the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).


ASEAN’s Role

  • The group acted as a platform for the member nations to resolve disputes from economic aspects to strategic and security aspects.
  • Regional and extra-regional multilateral platforms engage ASEAN with its dialogue partners were created.
  • These include the Annual Ministerial Meeting (AMM), Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership (APEC) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) among others.
  • Through these multilateral initiatives, ASEAN has maintained stable relations with the great powers in Asia.
  • ASEAN is now important in the region. It has helped shape regional interactions with the great powers including China, India, Japan and the US.
  • The contribution towards regional peace, stability and prosperity goes beyond Southeast Asia to the wider Asia-Pacific region.
  • ASEAN has declared itself as a nuclear weapon free zone


ASEAN’s strength

  • ASEAN’s strength lies in its great sense of community despite its diversity.
  • The adoption of the ASEAN Charter in 2007 reinforces the sense of community
  • The neutral role played by ASEAN in its external relations has helped ASEAN to “retain its centrality in the region”
  • ASEAN is seen as the most successful regional organisation next only to the EU
  • The centrality of Asia and ASEAN in global politics adds to the opportunities ASEAN has
  • ASEAN has a major role in providing peace and stability in the region


Weaknesses of ASEAN

  • Lack of natural custodian, accepting a common responsibility of ownership to keep the organisation moving.
  • Indonesia is capable of such responsibility but is still unable to perform such a role
  • Geopolitical conflicts and rivalries, weak leadership and the failure to deal with both
  • Intra-ASEAN security issues like Rohingya crisis, migration, human trafficking, pandemics, climate change, South China Sea and piracy.


Concerns / Challenges

  • China’s territorial claims in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea, and building up of artificial islands can prove to be a threat for freedom of navigation in region.
  • The South-China sea dispute has resulted into many ASEAN nations aligning with China.
  • Growing threat posed by Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
  • ASEAN was largely unsuccessful in containing the Rohingaya refugee crisis
  • Cross country organised crime like drug trafficking between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos forming the Golden Triangle could not be contained by ASEAN.


India – ASEAN

  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organizationcomprising ten Southeast Asian countries, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other Asian states .
  • India-ASEAN relations can be traced to historical and cultural relations. Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam spread from India to the region and the imprint of this shared cultural heritage is also seen in art forms and architectur
  • Despite this after independence India did not have good relations with ASEAN because ,ASEAN was under the US camp during the Cold War period ( Ideological differences).After the end of Cold War ,India – ASEAN relations have evolved from just economic  ties to strategic  heights owing to common threats and aspirations.

India and ASEAN are natural partners in desire to create  free and inclusive regional architecture.



  • Formation of Association of Southeast Asian Nations by Malaysia, Singapore,Phillippines,Indonesia and Thailand.


  • Two major events , disintegration of USSR (end of Cold War) and India’s march towards economic globalization paved way for India’s Look East policy under the P.V.Narasimha Rao government. India’s ‘Look East’ policy, which was an effort to forge extensive economic, strategic and cultural relations with the nations of the Asia-Pacific region.


  • India became ASEAN’s sectoral dialogue partner


  • India became full dialogue partner of  ASEAN


  • India became a member of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ,a  key forum for security dialogue in Asia which provides a setting in which members can discuss current regional security issues and develop cooperative measures to enhance peace and security in the region.


  • India and ASEAN begin to hold annual summit level meetings.


  • India- ASEAN Free trade Agreement in Goods was concluded.


  • India – ASEAN Strategic Partnership was concluded


  • India – ASEAN Free Trade Agreement  in Services and Investment was concluded.This was aimed to facilitate movement of manpower and investments between India and ASEAN.


  • India ASEAN celebrated 25 years of their relationship by holding a commemorative Summit. Leaders of all ten ASEAN countries were invited as Chief Guests for the Republic Day parade on January 26,2018


Transition from Look East Policy to Act East Policy

Look East Policy (LEP) has been a major pillar of India’s foreign policy since the early 1990s.Initiated by PM Narasimha Rao the principal aim of the policy was to pursue a policy of active engagement with countries of South East Asia. Two major reasons responsible for India’s Look East Policy are


  1. Collapse of Soviet Union
  • Collapse of India’s long-term ally left India isolated on the international aren Also, the gulf crisis, spike in oil prices, collapse of Rupee-Rubal agreement, all left India on its own, without an ally on the international scene. This made the search for new partners imperative for India.
  1. Balance of Payment crisis
    • The Balance of Payment crisis & the conditions imposed upon India for obtaining loans from IMF resulted in India opening up its market by reducing tariffs to the world. Thus, providing a ready market for good

The initial focus of Look East policy was on establishing trade & economic linkages with South East Asian countries & for achieving this aim, it went ahead to foster greater trade & economic linkages with ASEAN countries.

In this period India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992 and then a Summit level partner in 2002.

Trade between India and ASEAN multiplied fourfold — from $ 3.1 billion in 1991 to about $ 12 billion in 2002.

The second phase of Look East Policy focused on deepening economic ties, strategic & domestic dimensions, while the focus of First phase of Look East policy was primarily economic engagement.

The three guiding parameters of the 2nd phase of Look East policy were

  1. Deeper & wider economic engagements
    • Involved establishing institutional linkages between India & ASEAN nations
    • ASEAN is the first trade bloc with which India finalized a FTA in 2010 in goods
  2. Strategic & Security Component
    • The rise of China has been a cause of concern for many ASEAN .The rise of China has been accompanied by its growing assertiveness in its backyard as seen in the frequency with which it has asserted claims in South China Sea & East China Se
    • These countries view India as a possible partner in their effort to maintain balance of power & peace in the region.
    • India looks at ASEAN not simply as an institution of economic development but also as an integral part of India’s vision of stable, secure & prosperous Asia.
  3. Domestic dimensionLooking East through the North East.
    • Establishing trade & connectivity links with South East Asian countries via North East has been one of the focus Some initiatives in this regard are
      1. India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.
      2. Kaladan Multimodal Transport.
  • Mekong Ganga Corridor.
  1. Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor.

The Look East Policy has matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy in 2014 with a a focus on  extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. India  has  upgraded  its  relations  to  strategic  partnership  with  Indonesia,  Vietnam,  Malaysia,  Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The key principles and objectives of ”Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region with other countries in our neighborhood.

Further, apart from ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), India has also been actively engaged in regional fora such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Act East Policy has placed emphasis on India-ASEAN cooperation in our domestic agenda on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities, Make in India and other initiatives.


  1. Focus on tangible action and concrete results is inherent in the change from ‘Look’ to ‘Act’.
  2. Deepening cooperation with the extended region, comprising in particular US, Japan, Australia and South Korea, in order to cope with a marked increase in China’s assertiveness.
  3. Boldness on India’s part in the security, defense and strategic domain.
  4. India might become even more cordial and cooperative with ASEAN, but hard-nosed too. PM Modi called for conducting ‘a review of our FTA at his first summit itself.’ A strong push to negotiations for the RCEP to conclude them early. Besides, higher dedication was promised for creating “the trident” of commerce, culture and connectivity.
  5. Finally, the new government indicated clearly that India’s North Eastern Region (NER) would receive a higher priority in the implementation of AEP.


More focus has been given to Connectivity projects, cooperation in space, S&T and people-to-people exchanges.

Areas of Cooperation


  • The signing of a FTA in goods in 2009 was a game-changer, and with signing of the India-ASEAN FTA on Services and Investment in 2014 ,economic relations reached a new high.
  • The India-ASEAN trade is currently US$ 86b billion
  • Target of scaling the India-ASEAN trade to $100 billion by 2015 failed.
  • ASEAN is currently India’s fourth largest trading partner.


Strategic Depth

  • The rising tensions in the South China Sea have lent an added urgency to the strategic dimension of the relationship.
  • India has consistently called for freedom of navigation, and on trans-national issues also been a proactive participant in shaping discourse on these issues in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia summit process.



  • New Delhi is also looking forward to conclusion of negotiations for an ASEAN-India Transit Transport Agreement (Proposed).
    • Upgradation of Land Customs Stations, addressing immigration, customs, Phyto-sanitary facilities, permission for transporters, insurance issues along our borders, particularly with Myanmar. This will be done in India-Myanmar-Thailand negotiations on Transit Transport Agreement.
  • The Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo sector of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway – projected completion in 2018 – India has backed the extension of this highway to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (the proposed India-Vietnam route will be known as the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), its further linkage with ports in ASEAN countries and its integration with models like SEZs. –>> critical to unlocking the economic energies and enterprise of India’s north-eastern states, which border the region
  • In the future, the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway could link up with already existing roads like the one linking Thailand with the Vietnamese port of Da Nang.


IMT Highway

The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is a highway under construction under India’s Look East Policy that will connect Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar.

The road will boost the trade and commerce in the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, and with the rest of Southeast Asia. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.



  • Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project
    • The Kaladan project connects Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border.
    • To create a multi-modal platform for cargo shipments from the eastern ports to Myanmar and to the North-eastern parts of the country through Myanmar.
    • Significance:
      • It is expected to open up sea routes and promote economic development in the North-eastern states, and also add value to the economic, commercial and strategic ties between India and Myanmar.
      • This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km and will reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck.



With the region facing growing traditional and non-traditional challenges, politico-security cooperation is a key and an emerging pillar of this relationship:

  • Maritime security-Safeguarding Sea lanes of communication and combating piracy
  • Radicalization and terrorism
  • Drug trafficking and Human trafficking
  • South China Sea disputes
  • In this context India has following attributes that can enhance cooperation:

o Tri services command in Andaman and Nicobar

o Participation in forum for ASEAN security dialogue such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). India has been attending annual meetings of this forum since 1996 and has actively participated in its various activities.

o     The  ASEAN  Defense  Ministers’  Meeting  (ADMM)  Plus  is  the  highest  defense  consultative  and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN. The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis.

o     Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) is an avenue for track 1.5 diplomacy focusing on cross cutting maritime issues of common concern.



  •  India‘s cultural relation with Southeast Asia is centuries old and serves as a living link between the two regions. Civilizational and cultural links date back thousands of years, since the prehistoric times.
  • The region found mention in many Indian classical works as the Ramayana, while Indian merchants began bringing Hinduism and Buddhism across the sea by the 1st century AD, influencing the development of kingdoms and empires like Srivijaya in Sumatra and the Majapahit in Java, Bali and the Philippine archipelago.
  • Hindu religious symbols are very popular in Indonesia. In the medieval periods, Indian kings had considerable influence in this region as the Hindu temples of Barabadur in Java, Indonesia and Angkorvat temple in Cambodia bear testimony to it. Also there was a flourishing trade relations between the two regions.


There has been increased cultural cooperation through following ways

o Buddhism, Yoga

o Revival of Nalanda University,

o Chairs of Indian studies in universities (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia)

o Indian Cultural Centres (Jakarta, Bali, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Suva, Lautoka), and

o joint restoration of monuments (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos).



  • Imbalance in Trade and Investment
    • Although the trade between both regions have increased substantially however it is skewed against India. This is primarily attributed to Free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN resulting into flooding of cheap imported products into India.
    • Apart from unfavorable balance of trade, India’s domestic producers are also suffering. For example- Cheaper palm oil from ASEAN is hurting local prod producers in Kerala. On the investment front too, India is at back foot.
    • In 2015, India accounted for only 1.3 percent of total net inflows into ASEAN and was largely in the financial, insurance and real estate segment.
    • Also the investment by India FDI into ASEAN nations accounts for 22% of its total outbound FDI; far less in comparison to the US, the EU and Japan.


  • China’s increasing presence
    • Despite problems between China and ASEAN members on the issue of South China Sea, China is trying to increase it presence in the area through its one belt one road initiative which is opposed by India.
    • For example-investments have been made to connect Laos, Thailand with southern China through high speed rail links.


  • Physical connectivity
    • Better transport connectivity is critical to India-ASEAN relations. But on this front too both sides lag behind. There are no railway links, poor road facilities.
    • Delay in completing infrastructure projects— India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit and Transport Project, and the Moreh-Mandalay Bus Services -due to various political and financial constraints, has impeded the progress of economic cooperation.
    • Moreover, the India’s North east connectivity has also been hampered. Given that Myanmar shares such a long border with NE states and can act as a bridge between India and South East Asian markets so there is a need to speed up the stalled projects.

ASEAN lacks in strategic sovereignty because major leaders of the region are engaged in complex geo-politics of the region so ASEAN has to look at many leaders to take it ahead than on one. This deficiency also caused trust deficiency for India as well and ultimately leading to challenge India‘s ties with the organisation

With increasing assertiveness of China and its soft power diplomacy through OBOR in the South East Asian Region it has become imperative for India to engage effectively in the region. Besides making efforts for favourable economic relations, the two sides should also explore the unexplored domains in the relationship especially energy security

ASEAN countries, particularly Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia can potentially contribute to India’s energy security. Also oil and natural gas deposits in the South China Sea region should be explored through regional cooperation. Similarly, India with huge demographic dividend can provide a human resource base to ASEAN who is going to experience a burden of lower share of working age population and a higher median age of workers.

India’s geostrategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region depend on India’s bilateral and multilateral engagements with the countries in the region.

Maintaining cordiality with ASEAN as an organisation and with the individual Southeast Asian countries remains crucial for India




About the South China sea dispute:

It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.

  • Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
  • Beijing often invokes the so-called nine-dash line to justify its apparent historic rights over most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.
  • China has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its assertion as without basis.


Where is the South China Sea?

  • South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia.
  • It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo.
  • It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
  • Bordering states & territories: the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.


Who Claims What?


claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.


hotly disputes China’s historical account, saying China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s. Vietnam says it has actively ruled over both the Paracels and the Spratlys since the 17th Century – and has the documents to prove it.


Both the Philippines and China lay claim to the Scarborough Shoal (known as Huangyan Island in China) – a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China.

Malaysia and Brunei:

They lay claim to territory in the South China Sea that they say falls within their economic exclusion zones, as defined by UNCLOS – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Brunei does not claim any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia claims a small number of islands in the Spratlys


What is the Spratly Islands dispute about?

  • The ongoing territorial dispute is between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs, cays etc.
  • Brunei has contained its objections to the use of its maritime waters for commercial fishing.
  • The islands may have large reserves of untapped natural resources including oil.

What is the Paracel Islands dispute about?

Located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam.

Beijing says that references to the Paracel Islands as a part of China sovereign territory can be found in 14th century writings from the Song Dynasty.

Vietnam on the other hand, says that historical texts from at least the 15th century show that the islands were a part of its territory.

With increased tensions accelerated by Colonial powers, China and Vietnam fought over their territorial disputes in January 1974 after which China took over control of the islands.

  1. In retaliation, in 1982, Vietnam said it had extended its administrative powers over these islands.
  2. In 1999, Taiwan jumped into the fray laying its claim over the entire archipelago.
  3. Since 2012, China, Taiwan and Vietnam have attempted to reinforce their claims on the territory by engaging in construction of government administrative buildings, tourism, land reclamation initiatives and by establishing and expanding military presence on the archipelago.




Understanding UNCLOS

  • United Nation Convention on the Laws of the Sea defines the rights, responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, environment, and the management of marine natural resources
  • The following diagram explains the various demarcations as per UNCLOS

Source: wikimedia


  • Territorial waters – Exclusive enforcement jurisdiction for security and all other matters
  • Contiguous Zone – Security jurisdiction for customs, immigration and sanitary measures
  • Exclusive Economic Zone – Limited enforcement jurisdiction, reserved for pollution, marine natural resources, other issues which affect national security. Note that, EEZ can go up to 300nm in case the country can prove that there is an extension of continental shelf
  • High Seas – Beyond EEZ. No jurisdiction of home country


Importance of South China Sea

  • Strategic reasons
    • China currently facing Malaccan Dilemma, dependent for its energy needs on West Asia. The Sea Lanes of Communication from West Asia to China passes through several choke points such as Malaccan Strait, Sunda Strait, Lombok Strait which can be blocked in exigency situations, proving to be a great harm for China
    • Part of China’s aims to project People’s Liberation Army Navy as true blue water navy having extensive domination over Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean
    • Asia Pacific has emerged as the new focal point in the quest for one man upmanship between USA and China. China feels uncomfortable with USA’s Pivot to Asia policy and is working towards its aim of emerging as a counterpoint to USA’s hegemony
  • Economic reasons
    • Control over huge reserves of natural resources – oil (7 billion barrels) and gas (900trillion cubit feet)
    • Rich fishing grounds
    • Major transshipment route – becomes important in an era of economic globalization


Recent Flashpoint

In 2013, Phillipines took China to a UN Tribunal under the auspices of UNCLOS to challenge China’s claims of sovereignty over the portion of South China Sea enclosed by Nine Dash Line. The Permanent Court of Arbitration gave its award rejecting China’s claims and the judgement and its implications need to be understood in greater detail.


The Contention:

Charges by Phillipines on ground of

  • Sovereignty over South China sea and the issue of 9 dash line declared by Kuomintang government of China in 1946
  • Activities of China in the islands and reefs of South China Sea
  • Construction activity by China in the form of reclaiming reefs, constructing airstrips etc

The Ruling:

  • Regarding Sovereignty
    • Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that according to UNCLOS, any jurisdiction over ocean space derives solely from jurisdiction over land i.e. one can have jurisdictions over territorial sea from coast (12 nautical miles), continental shelf (200 nautical miles)
    • Also when countries became a part of UNCLOS, earlier historical claims had to be given up at the time of acceding to UNCLOS. This negates any legal basis of Nine Dash Line
  • Regarding Islands
    • One can not claim any territorial sea or EEZ on the basis of sovereignty over islands which are uninhabited, can’t support human life or which submerges in High Tide
    • This is a rejection of Chinese motivation in South China Sea of reclaiming islands
  • Regarding Construction Activities
    • The judgement served as an indictment on the conduct of China by saying that China violated the spirit of UNCLOS through aggressive posturing in South China Sea


Impact of the judgement:

  1. Even if China categorically rejects the award (which it has), the diplomatic fallout will be huge, particularly for a country which is a permanent member of UNSC and claims to uphold international law (remember China’s intransigence to India’s membership of NSG by bringing in the issue of NPT)
  2. Short Term impact:
    1. Slightly tempered down rhetoric of China wrt countries of ASEAN with which it had disputes over SCS. This is evident in the conciliatory tone of statement by Foreign Minister of China exhorting countries to negotiate and reach a settlement
    2. Aura of invincibility that China had built around itself hit as a result of the judgement.
    3. This might lead to a slightly greater balancing in China’s relationship with Japan and USA
  3. Long Term Impact – China has two options
    1. Go for continued conciliatory approach
    2. Go for aggressive posturing in South China Sea – This includes enhancing naval deployment, declaring Air Defence Identification Zone (like it did over East China Sea), intensify construction activities in the region.
      1. This step, however, will create a dent in the “responsible power” tag that China covets.
      2. China is going to soon host the G20 summit. In case it goes for this approach, it will undermine the diplomatic outreach of China.
  • Moreover China is looking to implement OROB initiative, AIIB etc which will require greater tact in dealing with such a contentious issue
  1. Whether Sanctions can be applied on China:
    1. Unlikely, as China currently is the powerhouse of world economy and a lot of countries, particularly European countries, are joined at the hip with China
  2. Possible escape routes for China:
    1. Bilateral dialogue
    2. Joint management of fishing zones
    3. Faster negotiation with ASEAN countries to come up with a “Code of Conduct for activities in South China Sea” (India at ADMM+ meeting has supported this initiative)
    4. CBMs to avoid intransigent situation in SCS
  3. Impact on relations with other countries such as Japan, Vietnam etc:
    1. These countries have already initiated a process of bolstering themselves against a marauding China by
      1. Enhancing their own military capabilities
      2. Bolstering relations with other stakeholders in the region. Eg India planning to sell Brahmos to Vietnam, Japan – US partnership, Malabar coast naval exercise etc
    2. This limits the effectiveness of aggressive posturing by China
  4. Impact on East China Sea:
    1. USA has adopted an aggressive posturing in the region. US is not a signatory to UNCLOS. Thus it deploys its Asia Pacific fleet within 3 nautical miles from Chinese coasts. These sort of activities make China very jittery
    2. East China Sea is potentially more volatile because of the presence of erratic actors like North Korea
    3. Japan’s “Proactive Pacifism” through an amendment of Article 6 of its Constitution also makes China wary in East China Sea where it is involved in an eqaually bitter dispute with Japan over Senkaku/Diayou Islands
    4. All these factors make East China Sea potentially more volatile
  5. Impact on India China Bilateral Relation
    1. India has emerged as a moral winner in this entire episode. The world sees India as a moral, responsible power as India had resolved its dispute with Bangladesh over territorial waters under the auspices of UNCLOS
    2. It would provide greater leveraging power to India wrt negotiating with China over membership to NSG
    3. However, it is unlikely to cause a paradigm shift in India China relations unless we bolster our own border security arrangements, continue on the path of reforms. These steps would help us in becoming a “Credible Power” and also being seen as one by international community.


Brief Historic Background

  • For most Mongolians, India is a “spiritual neighbour”, a declared ‘third neighbour’, a ‘strategic partner’ and a center for pilgrimage. Of late, our relationship has expanded beyond cultural sphere into various facets of cooperation in economic and defence sectors.
  • The 3 Ds Democracy, Dharma and Development Partnership have emerged as the pillars of India Mongolia relationship.
  • Historically, our two nations have interacted through the vehicle of Buddhism that has developed, nurtured and promoted the friendship and spiritual connect. Some Indian & Mongolian historians have conjectured about migration of some tribes from Kangra kingdom to Mongolian territory 4300 years ago.
  • Mangaldev, son of the King headed the migrants and majority of them returned to India after staying there for about 2000 years though there is no historical evidence yet to prove this. In 1924, the then Prime Minister of Mongolia Mr. A. Amar mentioned in his book – “Short History of Mongolia” that Mongolian forefathers came from backside of Himalayan Mountains.
  • Another interesting thing often quoted, is about ‘Ganga Nuur’ lake which accordingly to many Mongolians derived its name after ‘Ganga River’ in India from where some Mongolian Lamas brought water and poured into the lake in Sukhbaatar Province and naming it so.
  • As for our strongest cultural bond, Buddhism appears to have traversed to Mongolian steppes through Tibet and Himalayan region.
  • During the Hunnu State of 3rd century BC and later during the period of Great Mongol Empire Buddhist monks, several traders from India visited Mongolia.
  • In 552 BC, a Lama Narendrayash from the State of Udayana (Northern India) with some others visited Nirun state. Since to most Mongols India is the land of Buddha, Lamas and students from Mongolia used to travel to Nalanda, once the largest residential University in India, to study Buddhism.
  • In modern times, Buddhism has been promoted by cultural and literary contacts between the people of India and Mongolia.
  • The intellectual development of Mongolia is ostensibly influenced by the Mahayana school of Buddhism, its philosophy and philosophical treaties of Nagarjuna used in simplified expression and terminology
  • Holding of two important Buddhist international conferences – Asian Buddhist Conference on Peace (ABCP) and Samvaad-III Budhism-Hindusim Global Dialogue in Gandan Monastery in May and Sept 2019 respectively – in which India plays an important role, have contributed to consolidating of this shared heritage in recent years.
  • A paradigm shift and a strong momentum was brought in our bilateral relations in May 2015. The historic and first ever visit of Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Mongolia, paved the way for elevation of our partnership to ‘Strategic’ level.
  • India’s gifting of 150,000 doses of Covid Vaccine on Feb 22, 2021 was billed as a “historic” moment by Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister, as it was the Mongolia’s first vaccine came from India.


Defence Cooperation

  • Joint India-Mongolia exercise ‘Nomadic Elephant’ is held annually
  • Indian Armed Forces Observers regularly participate in the Annual multilateral peace keeping exercise ‘Khan Quest’ in Mongolia.
  • A Joint Working Group for Defence cooperation also convened annually


Border Patrolling Cooperation:

  • The BSF (MHA) of India and the Mongolian General Authority for Border Protection (GABP) have been closely cooperating on border patrolling and related subjects for over eight years

Disaster Management Cooperation

  • between National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) picked up pace in the recent years.
  • In 2018, 25 officers of NEMA were trained in India under ITEC.


Energy Cooperation:

  • A Working Group for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy has been set up between the respective agencies of the two countries i.e. the DAE and the Nuclear Energy Agency of Mongolia.


Commercial, Economic and Technical Cooperation

  • An Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation for MFN status to each other in respect of customs, duties and all other taxes on imports and exports and an MoU co-operation in the field of Geology and Mineral resources
  • The volume of bilateral trade is modest in value & volumes. Main items of exports to Mongolia include medicines, mining machinery and auto parts, etc.
  • Imports from Mongolia include raw cashmere wool.


Other Areas of Cooperatiom

ITEC Assistance

ICCR scholarships : For the Academic Year 2019-20, Mongolia has been offered 50 slots (20 slots each under Aid to Mongolia and General Cultural Scholarship Scheme and 10 slots under Cultural Exchange Programme/Education

Humanitarian assistance worth US$50,000 was provided by the Government of India to the flood affected Provinces (Bayan Ulgii, Arhangai and Huvsgul) of Mongolia in August 2018.

Humanitarian Assistances: Humanitarian assistance worth US$ 20,000 in the form of beds, bedrolls, toys, etc for the children of herders in Sukhbaatar Aimag (severely affected by harsh winter ‘Zud’) was provided.

Digital Connectivity Network: The Government of Mongolia sought India’s assistance on expansion of network in rural areas and improvement of infrastructure of main ICT network

Medical Missions: A team of 17 Indian Rotarians doctors led by Mr. R.K. Saboo, Ex-President of Rotary International undertook the second medical mission to Mongolia in May 2019 and conducted about 300 surgeries and donated medical equipment/medicines worth USD 12000.


Cultural Cooperation :

  • The India-Mongolian Agreement on Cultural Cooperation was first signed in 1961 and a CEP between the two countries has always remained in force.
  • The Agreement envisages co-operation in the fields of education by way of scholarships, exchange of experts, participation in conferences.
  • For the last 20 years the mission has been organizing Hindi Language classes in Mongolia and every year 4 students are granted scholarships to study Hindi language at Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Agra annually
  • Hindi films are fairly popular in Mongolia. The serial Mahabharata, dubbed in Mongolian, has been telecast on Ulaanbaatar TV.



The friendship between India and Japan has a long history rooted in spiritual affinity and strong cultural and civilization ties. India and Japan established diplomatic relations on 28 April 1952.Japan is regarded as a key partner in India’s economic transformation. In the recent past, the India Japan relationship has transformed to a partnership of great substance and purpose. Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India’s large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources.


India-Japan bilateral relation

  • Within India: Japan has been a leading financial donor in the form of ODA (Official Development Assistance) to India.
  • It continues to maintain a high degree of interest and support for India’s mega infrastructure projects like the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor and the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail
  • Outside India: Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGR) announced in 2017 and joint projects in some third countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka and in Africa as well will be taken jointly.
  • Defence ties: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a strategic dialogue between India, United States, Japan and Australia will be carried out.
  • Malabar exercise has been carried by India Japan and USA on a continuous basis.
  • 2+2 dialogue at the defence and foreign minister level.


Bilateral Cooperation:

  • The Ministers welcomed the progress made in deepening bilateral defence cooperation last year. In this regard, the welcome of the recently conducted second “Dharma Guardian-2019” and the second “SHINYUU Maitri-2019”. They also concurred to proceed with coordination for the first India-Japan joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan.
  • The Ministers welcomed the significant progress made in the negotiations of Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) since the announcement to commence the negotiations in October 2018.
  • Acknowledging the importance of ensuring maritime safety in achieving a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, the Ministers expressed their intention to further promote cooperation in the field of capacity building in maritime security and Maritime Domain Awareness including through cooperation with other countries.
  • Emphasized the need to further strengthen the defence equipment and technology.
  • Appreciated the existing exchange programs between the defence educational and research institutions of the two countries and expressed their desire to continue and expand the exchange programmes.


Multilateral Cooperation:

  • Recalling the Japan-India-US Summit Meetings in November 2018 and June 2019, the Ministers acknowledged the trilateral cooperation with the US. The Ministers expressed their satisfaction at trilateral cooperation represented by the “Malabar 2019” held from September-October 2019 off the coast of Japan, mine-countermeasures exercise (MINEX) held in Japan in July 2019 and “Cope India 2018” in which Japan participated as an observer in December 2018.
  • The Ministers welcomed the recent Japan-India-Australia-US Foreign Ministerial consultations in New York in September 2019.


Regional and International Affairs:

  • A frank and fruitful exchange of views on the regional issues of mutual interests particularly on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of supporting ASEAN centrality and unity for promoting peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Japanese side appreciated India’s announcement of “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” at the recent 14th EAS to create a safe, secure, stable, prosperous and sustainable maritime domain and confirmed their willingness to discuss concrete cooperation based on the Initiative.
  • The Ministers exchanged views on the recent developments in the South China Sea.
  • The importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including those reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • It condemned in the strongest terms the growing threat of terrorism and acknowledged that it constituted a major threat to peace and security in the region.
  • It was emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence.


Big-ticket Investments:

  • Japan has been extending bilateral loan and grant assistance to India since 1958, and is its largest bilateral donor.
  • Japanese ODA supports India’s development in sectors such as power, transportation, environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs.
  • $90 billion has gone into the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
  • Japan is also backing the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (bullet train) service.
  • Discussions have also taken place on the Dedicated Freight Corridor, a project of close to Rs 50,000 crore of which Japanese assistance has been of about Rs 38,000 crore.


New Areas of Engagement:

  • A ‘Cool EMS Service’ was started, under which Japanese food items are transported in cool boxes from Japan to India through postal channels.
  • Both sides are striving to push a digital partnership.
  • Areas of potential collaboration include AI, IoT, and big data.
  • India is likely to pitch for integration between the Ayushman Bharat project and the Japanese Asia Health and Wellbeing Initiative.



  • Trade engagements have been below potential.
  • On the list of countries that India exports to, Japan is at 18th position in the list of top 25 countries. On the list of countries importing into India, Japan ranks 12th.
  • India’s exports to Japan in FY18 were lower than in FY15 in value terms.
  • India struggling to penetrate the Japanese market as a result of language barriers, high quality and service standards.
  • Negotiations to purchase amphibious US-2 planes have dragged on for years.


Way Forward:

  • Experts say that a strong India is in Japan’s best interest and for that, Japan must provide even more support.
  • India must leverage Japan’s strengths in areas such as medical equipment and hospitals.
  • India and Japan must endeavour to work together for a rules-based and inclusive world order.
  • Enhancing communication and connectivity for unimpeded trade and flow of people, technology and ideas for shared prosperity.
  • Further cooperate for peace, stability and prosperity of Indo-Pacific.

India-South Korea relations have made rapid strides in recent years. With the convergence of India’s Act East Policy (AEP) and South Korea’s New Southern Policy (NSP), there has been an acceleration of economic and strategic relations between the two countries.


The Vision of the New Southern Policy

  • The Korean government’s New Southern Policy aims to cultivate its relations with ASEAN and India as key partners in the southern region, raise this partnership to the level of Korea’s traditional four major diplomatic partners (the U.S., China, Japan, Russia), develop values that can be empathized with others, and build a mutually prosperous “peoplecentered” community.
  • The New Southern Policy aims to form a multilateral economic and diplomatic framework to adjust to the U.S.’s priority on domestic concerns, which has been in full swing since the inauguration of the Trump administration, and to the expansion of China’s influence across East Asia.
  • The New Southern Policy emphasizes the so-called “3P community,” which stands for a community of People, Prosperity and Peace.


Bilateral relations:

  • Bilateral relations between India and South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, were established in 1962 and upgraded to Ambassador-level in 1973.
  • South Korea’s open market policies found resonance with India’s economic liberalization, and its ‘look east policy’ and ‘act east policy’.
  • The relations has become truly multidimensional, spurred by a significant convergence of interests, mutual goodwill and high level exchanges.
  • During PM Modi’s visit to ROK in May 2015, the sides elevated the ties to ‘Special Strategic Partnership’.
  • President Moon’s India visit marked the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties.
  • Cooperate with India in areas like the Indian ocean region
  • This kind of bond between the two countries strengthens bilateral cooperation.


Why India is important for South-Korea?

  • One of the points that the Koreans have been making to India is that they see India as a country that is now strategically important to them
  • South Korea also finds in India a very acceptable partner.
  • India doesn’t have edges which can create problems for them. They are aware of one factor which they have grown up with, which is the Pakistan factor.
  • With new issues cropping up in ties with China and America, export-driven South Korea must find new markets.
  • South Korea’s economic growth has slowed, presenting it with important challenges.
  • South Korea is targeting economies with the greatest growth potential like India.
  • South Korea is too heavily dependent on China’s market. So diversification is essential for South Korea.
  • Moon sees India as central to NSP’s success.
  • Need cooperation for development in third countries, like capacity building programmes in Afghanistan.


Commercial relations:

  • Very strong trade and investment relationship between India and South Korea.
  • Modi personally inaugurated the Samsung factory in Noida, which will be one of the largest electronic manufacturing plants in the country.
  • The economic imperatives are very strong between India and South Korea. Both India and South Korea have not been able to realize their potential till now.
  • Economic engagement constitutes the core of our
  • Trade and economic relations between India and South Korea gathered momentum after the implementation of CEPA in 2010.
  • A civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in 2011.
  • Korean majors like Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Kia have invested over $5 billion in India.
  • From an Indian perspective, it is important to note that India has been deficient in the production of core technologies. We have been good in services, however, we have been lacking in core technologies. However, if we were to cooperate with South Korea, and if we move in a particular direction, there is definitely space for both to work



  • Both India and South Korea are concerned about China’s rise, especially when China becomes assertive.
  • Both are increasingly worried about Chinese electronic presence in India.
  • There are some basic problems which the leaders of India and South Korea would have to tackle. This is also related to the trust between the businesses of India and the businesses of South Korea.
  • the trust level between the business community of the two countries isn’t at the level where it should be.
  • Despite the formal announcement of a strategic partnership a decade ago, Delhi and Seoul have struggled to impart some real content into it.
  • For India, which has begun to adopt the notion of an Indo-Pacific, Korea has not been at top of its regional priorities in Asia.
  • Prosperity brought by globalisation to Asia over the recent decades is under stress.
  • India has also been complaining about a 50 billion USD trade deficit.


Way Forward:

  • India and South Korea should regularize their summit meetings and that they meet more frequently at the highest level. This will give directions to the business and industry in each country to work together.
  • South Korea is the most technologically advanced nation in Asia after Japan. Therefore, bringing them Japan on board would be an absolute boost to India’s ability to become a more powerful nation.
  • There is an urgent need to strengthen economic partnership. As a trade war unfolds between US and China, Delhi and Seoul need to liberalise their own bilateral trade relations.
  • India would need to work with South Korea on new generation technologies and core technologies, while at the same time consolidating the existing relationship.
  • The two sides also need to focus on expanding bilateral security and defence cooperation and working together with other countries to promote a stable Asian balance of power system.
  • Delhi and Seoul should focus on building flexible middle power coalitions in Asia to limit the impact of the current volatility in the relations between US and China.
  • The business community of both countries must leverage opportunities arising from complementarities between the two economies to enhance investment, to promote joint ventures, and to work towards the goal of raising bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030″.
  • At a time when U.S. foreign policy is capricious and unpredictable, and China’s is making purposeful moves towards global domination, it is important that the South Korea-India partnership grows and consolidates, to contribute to stability in the region.

It is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.

Aim: to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.


  1. APEC works to help all residents of the Asia-Pacific participate in the growing economy. APEC projects provide digital skills training for rural communities and help indigenous women export their products abroad.
  2. Recognizing the impacts of climate change, APEC members also implement initiatives to increase energy efficiency and promote sustainable management of forest and marine resources.
  3. The forum adapts to allow members to deal with important new challenges to the region’s economic well-being. This includes ensuring disaster resilience, planning for pandemics, and addressing terrorism.


APEC’s 21 member economies are Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People’s Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; Viet Nam.



About RCEP:

  • The mega trade bloc comprises 15 countries led by China (10 ASEAN members and Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
  • The group is expected to represent at least 30% of the global GDP and will emerge as the largest free trade agreement in the world.
  • The mega trade bloc is expected to boost commerce among the member-countries spread across the Asia-Pacific region.

Aims and Objectives of RCEP:

  • To lower tariffs, open up trade in services and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world.
  • To help reduce costs and time for companies by allowing them to export a product anywhere within the bloc without meeting separate requirements for each country.
  • It also touches on intellectual property, but will not cover environmental protections and labour rights.

Why does it matter?

It mainly matters because it sets new trade rules for the region — and has China’s backing but does not include the United States.

  • Observers say it solidifies China’s broader geopolitical ambitions in the region.

Why no India?

India withdrew last year over concerns about cheap Chinese goods entering the country, though it can join at a later date if it so chooses.

  • It raised alarm about market access issues, fearing its domestic producers could be hard hit if the country was flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
  • Textiles, dairy, and agriculture were flagged as three vulnerable industries.

Concerns for India

  • India is wary of its market being flooded with the Chinese goods once the deal is approved.
  • The partnership will have an impact on sectors such as steel, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, food processing, agriculture, intellectual property, and food security.
  • The presence of China creates apprehensions, especially when it enjoys manufacturing surplus and is already dumping its products across the world, including in India.
  • Apart from China, India is also losing out to financial and technological hub of Singapore, agriculture and dairy majors Australia and New Zealand, plantations of South East Asian countries, and pharmaceutical trade with China and the US.
  • With e-commerce as part of RCEP discussion, the Indian resistance at WTO of not letting the discussion on digital trade will weaken.
  • Many of the RCEP countries are also resisting India’s offer on export of services.
  • The free movement of investments will benefit investors in the US, Singapore, Japan and China, but very few Indians will be taking advantage of this.
  • Zero tariff on steel import would open flood gates of Chinese imports into India.
  • The gulf between India and the other 15 countries in the RCEP remains deep, and it isn’t clear how or if it can be bridged

India’s Arguments

  • India’s experience with the previously concluded FTAs hasn’t been good.
  • The exports from ASEAN into India have grown far quicker than Indian exports to the bloc.
  • Indian companies want more market access for services
  • India has constantly resisted provisions on intellectual property rights.
  • India doesn’t want to commit to provisions over and above the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement under the WTO, as that could be detrimental for the domestic generic pharmaceutical industry.
  • India has already opposed few proposals on patent extensions and restrictive rules on copyright exceptions.
  • n the past, too, India has not been able to get a fair deal with respect to services trade, despite giving greater market access in goods trade.

Challenges for India

  • The biggest challenge in RCEP negotiations is to seek markets for global majors in such a way that it doesn’t promote shifting India’s manufacturing base
  • The current account deficit (CAD) touched 2.8 per cent of GDP, and the agreement in the present state of negotiations would mean forgoing a substantial part of the revenues.
  • This implies that the government needs to be confident on the GST revenue so that it can compensate for the loss.
  • Indian IT services have not fared well in markets like Japan, Korea and China because of language issues and strong preference for in-house solutions
  • There has been little progress in moving up the value chain in IT services while countries like the Philippines are already serious competitors in the low end segment.


Why Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) called for signing of RCEP?

Trade within RCEP nations would increase. And India can leverage advantage in areas such as ICT, IT- enabled services, healthcare and education services.

It also provides an opportunity for India to tap large and vibrant economies and increase its exports. As the RCEP progresses and favourable tariffs and Rules of Origin (ROOs) kick in, India could become a major hub for coordinating regional value chains through itself.

India could serve not only as a major market for final markets but also as a base for third-country exports, primarily to West Asia, Africa and Europe.