My title is: IR | Regional Groupings Affecting India's Interest | 35th ASEAN Summit

35th ASEAN Summit

2019-11-02 | 5 minutes

About ASEAN India Summit 2019 pendulumias

About the Summit

35th ASEAN Summit is going on in Bangkok, Thailand from 31st October- 4th November 2019. PM Modi will be attending the 16th ASEAN-India summit and 14th East Asia Summit from 2nd- 4th November 2019.

The 35th ASEAN Summit is hosted by Thailand, and its theme is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability.” The major focus of the summit will be on concluding negotiations regarding Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). On the sidelines of this summit, East Asia Summit and ASEAN-India Summit will also be held.

The 34th ASEAN Summit was also hosted by Thailand in June 2019. ASEAN Summit is a biannual meeting of the heads of the member countries of ASEAN.

The 36th ASEAN Summit will be hosted by Vietnam in April/May 2020.

The 1st ASEAN Summit was held in Bali, Indonesia, in 1976.


  • Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization that was formed in 1967 with the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration.

  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.” Its secretariat is in Jakarta, Indonesia.

  • Member states- Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar.

  • Purpose of ASEAN:

    • Maintain peace, stability, and security in the region
    • Preserving the region as a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone
    • Economic growth and integration
    • Alleviate poverty
    • Strengthen Democracy and promote good governance
    • Promote sustainable development
    • People-oriented ASEAN, encouraging people’s participation in the development and integration of ASEAN community.

About East Asia Summit

East Asia Summit is an annual meeting held by leaders of ASEAN plus 8 nations (Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States). The summit focuses on the cooperation of leaders on the challenges faced in the Indo-Pacific region, be it political, economic or security related.

About RCEP

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) whose negotiations started 6 years ago and is yet to conclude. The agreement is between the ten members of ASEAN and its six FTA partners viz. China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. RCEP members account for 1/3rd of the global GDP and approx. half of the world’s population.

RCEP is seen as an alternative to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

RCEP covers different aspects of economy, such as goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights (IPR), rules of origin, competition and dispute settlement, etc.

India and ASEAN

  • India became a full dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1996, and the annual summit meetings between India and ASEAN began in 2002.

  • A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and ASEAN came into existence in 2009.

  • The relation between India and ASEAN countries has extended beyond trade and institutional linkages to defence, maritime connectivity, and security cooperation.

  • A study by NITI Aayog has revealed that India’s trade deficit with ASEAN has widened, which is due to the underutilization of FTA route by Indian exporters.

  • Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have emerged as major export destinations for India. Singapore constitutes more than 90% of the total FDI that flows into India.

  • The interests of India and ASEAN converge at maintaining free and open Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, regional growth and development and maritime security.

  • India needs to utilize the vast natural resources and hydropower potential of the ASEAN nations.

  • Some of the issues like delay in completion of infrastructure projects, non-tariff barriers, need to be addressed by India to improve relations.

India and RCEP

  • Two major concerns for India are- Access to Chinese Market and India’s demand for shifting the base year to 2019 for tariff cuts. India has a trade deficit of $ 50 billion with China.

  • Joining RCEP will be a step towards realizing India’s ‘Act East Policy’.

  • India is looking forward to balanced RCEP negotiations; it has already concluded negotiations on 21 of the 25 chapters, including negotiations on data localization and state dispute settlement mechanism, and the remaining will be concluded before 4th November.

  • India is facing wide protests by the farmers, NGOs and other political parties against the RCEP agreement as they apprehend that the negotiations would harm India’s domestic market. 


India needs to focus more on increasing physical and people-to-people connectivity to further strengthen its relations with ASEAN countries. Projects like India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project are a good start to increase physical connectivity. India is looking forward to the bilateral and multilateral cooperation to ensure its geostrategic interests in the Indo Pacific region and Indian Ocean Region. ASEAN is at the heart of India’s ‘Act East Policy’; hence, India should utilize the opportunity to build closer economic, political and strategic relation with ASEAN.