It is a great stride. The Indo-Asean commemorative meet is projected to pave ways for an Asian prominence and double the present level of India’s trade to around $ 125 billion with Asean countries by 2025.
That is not the only gain. The engagement will be at many stages right from defence to various levels of economic engagement beyond the region with Japan, Australia and New Zealand in the Pillar of Act East; INDIAN TRADE TO BOOM IN ASIA, PACIFIC By Shivaji Sarkar wake of India, US, Japan and Australian round of talks on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Asean is central pillar for Act East policy.
A significant involvement is with The Philippines, which with President Duterte is looking to free itself from the US domination to develop independent ties with China and India. It is the process of reconnecting with East Asia through the 10-nation Asean – Indonesia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
This is in continuation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plenary address to the global community at the world Economic Forum on January 22 and his visit to Manila for the 15th ASEAN-India summit and the 12th East Asia summit held in Manila in November 2017. The present commemorative meet brings India closer with the tennation ASEAN as their heads discuss the future of Southeast Asia and also becomes the bridge with the East and the West paving way for a dynamic world that would have to look more towards Asia for global progress.
Trade with Asean has touched $ 71 billion, 25 times which was at the onset of the relations in 1992. The meet and bilateral talks held with each of the leaders is likely to increase business of Indian IT companies and maritime involvement manifold. The maritime involvement is significant. It entrusts Indian Navy (IN) with the task to fight against Southeast Asian nations’ drive to eliminate piracy. The wolrdls’ 52 percent of the piracy takes place in this area since the international action controlled piracy with active involvement of IN around Somalia, western parts of Indian Ocean and West Asia. The engagement is strategic and is to give Indian defence sells a boost. It is also to speed up international trade and the major beneficiary is likely to be Indian trade and shipping activities. A major part of the engagement with ASEAN would benefit the North-Eastern parts of the country the trilateral highway through Myanmar to Bangkok and is to be completed by 2019 with huge Indian investments. Entire cost of this strategic road is being borne by India and benefits Indian construction sector.
Many countries are increasing infrastructure activities. The trilateral highway is likely to emerge as the brand India icon to multiply demand for building infrastructure and related activities. It could replace the Gulf in the coming years as the job destination for Indian techies.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) find Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand having large economic potential and the fast growing economies. India apart from multilateral relations with these countries also has bilateral ties. So while these countries would have direct trade with India these would also aid in multilateral action to help India.
The ASEAN engagement is in the backdrop of increasingly aggressive China triggering insecurities among its Asian neighbours that arises with Beijing’s claims of almost 80 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea (SCS0. At least four nations – Vietnam, Malaysia, Nrunei and the Philippines – are party to territorial disputes with China. Singapore and Vietnam have repeatedly urged India to increase its security profile in southeast Asia. India’s recent tough stand with China at Doklam has raised its potential. The present range of talks moved around implementation of various projects in the fields of agriculture, science and technology, space, environment, human resource, capacity building, tourism and connectivity. From Asean, the Philippines has wintesssed a steep rise in services trade. Several Indian companies have opened offices at Manila in the last few years in IT-enabled and research and development services.
The Indian IT companies are now looking for deeper ties with the region. The Philippines is keen on having an Aadhar-based system and looks for Indian assistance. Another growing area is the medical services.
The rare mention of “countering cross border terror” stresses and shares the need Asean’s vision for peace and prosperity through a rule-based order for the oceans and seas, Modi said at the plenary of the summit.
This was critical as Asean and India reaffirmed the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, and other lawful uses of the seas and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce and to promote peaceful resolution of disputes. These are virtually in the context of the SCS.
A free SCS and the Strait of Malacca is in the interest of the region and engagement with India and trade across Asia. India has free trade agreements with the ten countries. The trade, however, has been growing at a pace less than the deserving.
The trade is growing at 10 percent. Asean wants it increase it and insists on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that is being talked about.. Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong are keen that RCEP is signed this year itself.
The RCEP is a FTA involving Asean nations and India, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China and Japan. Asean demands tariff cuts. India is wary of it as it is building its indigenous manufacturing. Apart it has apprehensions that it would flood Indian markets with Chinese goods, which is politically volatile apart from its adverse economic impact on the country.
Singapore feels it would create an integrated Asian market comprising half the world’s population and a third of GDP.
In the official circles, the Asean demand for RCEP and inclusion of China causes an uncanny feeling. There may be further negotiations and India would like the Asean to do it without China. But some Asean nations are also interested in having closer bilateral ties including Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sinapore and Brunei. They want to trade on many areas are also interested in knowing more about the cashless economy.
Closer cooperation in the energy sector power, oil and gas exploration is a possibility as it happening with Vietnam. Other feasible areas are nuclear energy and mineral exploration.
The commemorative summit in the long run, is likely to create an Indian aspirational area and boost trade and business in the neighbourhood.