ASEAN-India Friendship Year: Basics Explained

This year (2022) marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations and is being celebrated as the ASEAN-India Friendship Year.


Strategic Partnership of India and ASEAN is based on the shared historical, geographical and cultural heritage, adding that ASEAN has been the core of India’s Act East Policy from the very beginning.   ASEAN comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam

    Since the early 1990s and India’s march towards economic liberalisation resulted in the ‘Look East Policy’. The Look East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented Act East Policy. India is also an active participant in several regional forums like the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting + (ADMM+) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).      

      India became a Sectoral Partner of the ASEAN in 1992, Dialogue Partner in 1996 and Summit Level Partner in 2002 and   the relationship up-graded of into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 . In 2015, India has also set up a separate Mission to ASEAN and the East Asia Summit in Jakarta in 2015 with a dedicated Ambassador to strengthen engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-centric processes.

In 2017, ASEAN and India commemorated the 25th Anniversary of their Dialogue Relations.

India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner. The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) entered into force on 1 January 2010. the ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment Agreements entered into force on 1 July 2015.

The India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway Project and its extension to Laos and Cambodia was one of ongoing projects to achieve greater ASEAN-India physical connectivity and is aimed to connect the ASEAN Highway Network with the highway system in eastern India. and has begun constructing a road linking the Indian state of Mizoram with the Sittwe port in Myanamar through the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project. Plans for a railway link between New Delhi in India to Hanoi in Vietnam are also on the anvil.

India is taking strides to ramp up its cooperation with ASEAN countries in maritime engagement in the Indo-Pacific, especially through a series of bilateral and multilateral naval exercises.(It did with Indonesia and Vietnam)


Both India and ASEAN aim to establish a rules-based security architecture for peaceful development in the region places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region.

The main focus of the Act East policy focusing on engagement not just with Southeast Asian countries but also those in the Pacific and on enhancing connectivity between India and South East Asia, through linkages between India’s northeastern region and countries like Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Another pivotal component of India-ASEAN growing partnership relates to the comprehensive Plan of Action (2021-2025) that aims at enhancing maritime trade and security cooperation along with counter-terrorism measures.

India and ASEAN have a free trade agreement. India is one of ASEAN’s top trading and investment partners. In the decade since signing the agreement, bilateral trade has grown exponentially and reached over US$79 billion (S$110 billion) in 2020-21


 Delays in completion of infrastructure projects aimed at increasing connectivity hamper potential for better trade between India and ASEAN as well as impact the energy and momentum to take ties forward; Delay in the trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) highway,and the Kaladan project, while a major portion of the construction is over, the road between Paletwa and Zorinpui is behind schedule

Another thorny issue has been the trade imbalance between India and ASEAN, which remains skewed in ASEAN’s favor

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership appears to be a key issue of divergence between India and ASEAN due to the latter’s decision to withdraw from the trading bloc after eight years of negotiations.


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