ASEAN and India

The India-ASEAN relationship has entered into its third decade. India became a sectoral partner of ASEAN in 1992, a dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1996 and a summit level partner of ASEAN in Phnom Penh in 2002. In 2003, India and ASEAN signed the Instrument of Accession to the TAC in Southeast Asia at the Bali Summit, which outlines a framework on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and contains a joint declaration for cooperation to combat international terrorism.

The Vientiane Summit of 2004 marked a significant milestone in India-ASEAN relations. The ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity and the Plan of Action to implement it were concluded. The first plan of action was implemented from 2004 to 2010. The second plan of action for 2010 to 2015 has been adopted and is being implemented.

New Delhi hosted the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in December 2012 to mark 20-years of its association with ASEAN and 10-years of its summit level partnership. This Summit also marked two decades of India's 'Look East Policy' and its economic liberalisation process. At the 2012 Summit, the India-ASEAN relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership. The leaders also adopted a vision statement or a blueprint for India-ASEAN cooperation in the future.

The last two decades of India-ASEAN dialogue has resulted in a strengthening of cooperation across the three pillars of their relationship – politico-military, economic and socio-cultural. The India-ASEAN dialogue currently has 26 inter-governmental mechanisms that cover an extensive spectrum of areas.

India's 20-year-old engagement of the ASEAN countries is in line with the words of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the Discovery of India in 1944. Nehru wrote: "The Pacific is likely to take the place of the Atlantic in the future as the nerve centre of the world. Though not directly a Pacific state, India will inevitably exercise an important influence there. India will also develop as the centre of economic and strategic importance in a part of the world which is going to develop in the future."

On 21 June 2013, the ASEAN-India Centre was inaugurated in New Delhi. It serves as a resource centre for the India-ASEAN strategic partnership. A separate ASEAN-India Trade and Investment Centre will also be set up by the External Affairs Ministry.

Another area of focus is improving land, sea and air connectivity. In June 2014, New Delhi started the annual ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee. The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is expected to be completed by 2016 and is expected to bolster growth in India's northeast region.