Editorial Summary - Oceans Eleven

Oceans Eleven - ASEAN outlook on Indo-Pacific Region

Context :-

At the 34th ASEAN summit in Bangkok, the leaders of the 10-nation grouping finally came out with their positions on the Indo-Pacific region in a document titled ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’. While ASEAN has not spelt out what it considers to geographically constitute the region, but there appear to be several similarities between the Indian and ASEAN approaches to this critical subject.

Indo Pacific Region :-

It has been a very important part of the globe from both a geo-political as well as geo-economic perspective, therefore the group clearly wants developments here to be ASEAN-centric and even ASEAN-led.

Objectives of ASEAN outlook on the Indo - Pacific Region :-

  • ASEAN Centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with ASEAN-led mechanism as platforms for dialogue and implementation of the Indo-Pacific cooperation.
  • A second objective of the ASEAN group, as far as the Indo-Pacific is concerned, is to promote an enabling environment for peace, stability and prosperity by upholding a “rules-based regional architecture”.
  • The new ASEAN Outlook specifically refers to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) while talking of peaceful resolution of disputes, which can be interpreted as being squarely aimed at China and its aggressive actions in the South China Sea.

Finally, the Outlook makes it amply clear that the objective of security and stability is the continued growth and development of all countries in the region through greater connectivity, more trade and higher investment. Here too, free, fair and balanced trade by sticking to the rules of the game will be very important, so that extreme imbalances can be cut out and prosperity shared by all — not confined to the few.

India & ASEAN share same thoughts on Indo-Pacific Region:-

  • PM Narendra Modi in his Shangrila dialogue address on June 1, 2018, where, in reference to the Indo-Pacific region he had stated, “Southeast Asia is at its centre. & ASEAN has been and will be central to its future. That is the vision that will always guide India…”.
                                                                           This similarity of approach works well for both sides, since we already have sizeable areas of cooperation within the “ASEAN Plus India” and the East Asia Summit frameworks, and we already work together in many of the ASEAN-led platforms and vehicles of cooperation.
  • India, too, seeks such an order which must equally apply to all individually as well as to the global commons
    ASEAN believes that a rule based regional architecture should be there.  
  • India too believes that when “nations make international commitments, they must uphold them” including in freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and settlement of disputes whereas
    ASEAN thinks about peaceful resolution of Disputes.
  • The ASEAN Outlook clearly has an inclusive approach to the region as it visualises “avoiding the deepening of mistrust, miscalculation and patterns of behavior based on a zero-sum game”. Whereas
    India has also stated that the Indo-Pacific region is not an exclusive club aimed at any country but must be inclusive, aiming at security and prosperity for all in the region. 

There is great similarity and parallel in both thought and approach between the Indian and ASEAN positions on the Indo-Pacific Region.

Way forward :-

A concert between the balancing powers is, therefore, the requirement of the day. India should quickly seize the moment of the announcement of the ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific Region’, and institute a new dialogue with the 10-member grouping so that we can both further calibrate our approaches in this very important matter. 

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