The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an important regional organization in the Asia-Pacific region. Read here to learn more about the organization.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
8th August is observed as ASEAN Day.
ASEAN Secretariat is situated in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Also read: India-South Korea Relations
History of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
On 8 August 1967, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and signed a document to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
These aims and purposes were about:
- Cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational, and other fields
- The promotion of regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
- To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilization of agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, the improvement of transportation and communications facilities, and the raising of the living standards of people.
- To promote Southeast Asian studies.
- To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations.
It stipulated that the Association would be open for participation by all States in the Southeast Asian region subscribing to its aims, principles, and purposes.
Bangkok Declaration not only contains the rationale for the establishment of ASEAN and its specific objectives. It represents the organization’s modus operandi of building on small steps, voluntary, and informal arrangements toward more binding and institutionalized agreements.
Over the years, ASEAN has progressively entered into several formal and legally binding instruments, such as:
- 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia
- 1995 Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone
- 1997, Adoption of ASEAN Vision 2020.
- 2003 Bali Concord II for the establishment of an ASEAN Community.
- 2007 Cebu Declaration, to accelerate the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015.
- 2008 ASEAN Charter came into force and became a legally binding agreement.
- 2015 Launch of ASEAN Community
The ASEAN Summit is the highest policy-making body in ASEAN comprising the Head of States or Government of ASEAN Member States.
The ASEAN Summit is held twice annually at a time to be determined by the Chair of the ASEAN Summit in consultation with the other ASEAN Member States.
The summit is to be hosted by the ASEAN Member State holding the ASEAN Chairmanship.
The First ASEAN Summit was held in Bali, Indonesia in February 1976.
Forums led by ASEAN
- ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): Launched in 1993, the 27-member multilateral grouping was developed to facilitate cooperation on political and security issues to contribute to regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.
- ASEAN Plus Three: The consultative group initiated in 1997 brings together ASEAN’s 10 members with China, Japan, and South Korea.
- East Asia Summit (EAS): First held in 2005, the summit seeks to promote security and prosperity in the region and is usually attended by the heads of state from ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. ASEAN plays a central role as the agenda-setter.
- ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Meeting: The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN and its 8 Dialogue Partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, ROK, Russian Federation, and the United States) to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.
Free-trade agreements (FTAs)
- ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area
- ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreements
- ASEAN-India Free Trade Area
- ASEAN- Japan Free Trade Area
- ASEAN-Republic of Korea Free Trade Area
- ASEAN- Hong Kong- China Free Trade Area
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
Challenges for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Instabilities in the South-Asian region affect the economic and regional cooperation among the ASEAN nations.
- The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar challenged the global standing of ASEAN of non-interference in the internal affairs of member nations.
- ASEAN in an unusual move decided to take action against Myanmar’s junta after the forceful takeover in 2021.
- The South China Sea disputes involving member nations have been challenging for ASEAN.
The economic divide between the member nations is very pronounced in ASEAN.
- While Singapore has the highest GDP, Cambodia has the lowest which is almost 1/4th of the highest.
- This causes many regional initiatives to not be implemented properly due to resource constraints in lower-income nations.
The political systems are diverse with democracies, communists, and authoritarian states in the blend.
- This sometimes causes the inability to negotiate a unified approach concerning issues.
- The dispute settlement is inefficient due to different political and economic situations among the members.
India is consciously working with ASEAN towards a vision of an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific in tandem with initiatives such as the Act East Policy (AEP), and Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), to ensure Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
- India began formal engagement with ASEAN in 1992 as a “Sectoral Dialogue Partner” and subsequently as a “Dialogue Partner” in 1996.
- At the 20-year Commemorative Summit Meeting in New Delhi (December 2012) the Dialogue Partnership was further elevated to a Strategic Partnership.
- During the 25-year Commemorative Summit in New Delhi (January 2018), India and ASEAN further agreed that the Strategic Partnership would be focused on building cooperation in the maritime domain.
- The year 2022 marks 30 years of ASEAN-India relations and it has been designated as ASEAN-India Friendship Year by the leaders in October 2021.
To support cooperation activities between ASEAN and India, Govt of India has created three funds:
- ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund (AIF)
- ASEAN-India Green Fund (AIGF)
- ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund (AISTDF)
The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) entered into force on 1 January 2010.
- The signing of the AITIGA on 13 August 2009 in Bangkok paved the way for the creation of one of the world’s largest free trade areas with more than 1.9 billion people and a combined GDP of US$ 5.36 trillion.
ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in 2003 to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform.
The ASEAN-India Trade in Services Agreement was signed by all Parties on 13 November 2014 and entered into force on 1 July 2015.
- As of date, the Agreement has been ratified by all Parties. Meanwhile, the ASEAN-India Investment Agreement was signed by all Parties on 12 November 2014.
- To date, it has been ratified by all Parties, except Cambodia.
ASEAN is India’s fourth-largest trading partner. The relations with ASEAN are important for India to forward its Act East Policy to ensure economic development in the northeast region.