The ten member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted the ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ after more than a year of negotiations in the recently concluded ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Bangkok, Thailand.
- The deliberations on the need for the ASEAN to evolve a unified vision and strategy for the Indo-Pacific began after US President Trump proposed the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy during his Asia tour in 2017 and at the 2017 APEC Summit in Vietnam.
- Countries like Australia, France, India and Japan had also come up with their own individual visions and strategies for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and therefore some countries in the ASEAN like Indonesia, Thailand did not want the Southeast region to be sidelined and left out of this new geopolitical game.
India’s engagement in Indo-Pacific
- India views the Indo-Pacific as a geographic and strategic expanse, with the 10 ASEAN countries connecting the two great oceans.
- Inclusiveness, openness, and ASEAN centrality and unity lie at the heart of the Indian notion of Indo-Pacific.
- It has been an active participant in mechanisms like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Mekong-Ganga Economic Corridor, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, in which the navies of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) participate.
- Through, Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) India is stepping up its interactions with the Pacific Island countries.