Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc will co-chair the 17th ASEAN-India summit.
The leaders of all ten ASEAN member states will participate in the summit which will be held virtually.
The summit will review the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership and take stock of progress made in key areas such as connectivity, maritime cooperation, trade and commerce, education and capacity building.
ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025) will also be adopted during the meet. COVID-19, post-pandemic economic recovery and important regional and international developments will also be discussed at the summit.
Indo-Pacific gaining salience in the global discourse, the partnership between India and ASEAN is poised to achieve new strengths.
“India was one of the first countries to welcome ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, which share a lot of commonalities with India’s own Indo-Pacific vision. India wants to see a strong, unified and prosperous ASEAN playing a central role in the Indo-Pacific region” a source said.
PM Modi, in his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018, highlighted ASEAN centrality and unity as an important pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific vision.
“The ten countries of South East Asia connect the two great oceans in both the geographical and civilizational sense. Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity, therefore, lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific”, the Prime Minister said in his speech.
With its Act East Policy, India is constantly trying to improve regional connectivity.
India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an ongoing effort to enhance road-connectivity between India’s North East and South East Asia.
There is good air-connectivity between India and several ASEAN countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Last year, Indigo and Vietjet started air-services between India and Vietnam, efforts have also been made to enhance connectivity in the digital and cyber domain also.
India’s Act East Policy, which provides the guiding framework to take forward the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership to the next level, recognizes connectivity in its broadest sense as the key.
Connectivity includes physical, economic, political and people-to-people connectivity. In 2018, India offered a USD 1 billion Line of Credit to ASEAN countries for connectivity and infrastructure projects.
With the increasing focus on the oceans as providers of resources, reservoirs of biodiversity, highways of global trade and frontiers of scientific research, cooperation in the maritime domain has become increasingly important under the overall rubric of ASEAN-India cooperation.
In the East Asia Summit held in Bangkok in November 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative to implement India’s Indo-Pacific Vision of a safe, secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific Maritime domain – to strengthen maritime security, preserve maritime ecology, sustainably harness maritime resources, enhance cooperation on capacity building and resource sharing, ensure disaster risk reduction and management, promote science, technology and academic cooperation and enhance connectivity, maritime trade and transport.
India and ASEAN have a Free Trade Agreement spanning goods, services and investment, including ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement, ASEAN-India Trade in Services Agreement and ASEAN-India Investment Agreement.
On the economic front, India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing, with ASEAN being India’s fourth-largest trading partner.
In 2019-20, ASEAN-India trade stood at USD 86.9 billion. The principal commodities of India’s exports to ASEAN countries include petroleum products, ship, boat and floating structures, bovine meat, organic chemicals, marine products and iron and steel while principal commodities of imports include coal, coke and briquettes, vegetable oils, telecom instruments, crude petroleum and organic chemicals.
The two biggest religions of South-East Asia spread from the Indian subcontinent, the biggest temple of the world is in Cambodia, the languages of the two regions share a lot of common words including the word ‘bhasha’ itself which means language.
The Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are as popular in South-East Asia as they are in India. Even today and the coronation ceremony of Thai kings is performed with Indian rituals. The traditional medicinal systems of ASEAN countries share many commonalities with Indian Ayurveda.
Sources said all these tell the tale of “our long and time-tested cross-cultural influences and interactions”.