US India Global Review 2018

13 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 across the whole spectrum of political-security, economic, socio- cultural and development cooper- ation." The parties committed to continue working "closely together on common regional and interna- tional security issues of mutual concern and ensure an open, transparent, inclusive and rules- based regional architecture." They reaffirmed the "importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and secu- rity, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region," and peaceful resolution of disputes, according to international laws. The agreement also sought to "deepen cooperation in combat- ing terrorism in all its forms" and countering it through information sharing, law enforcement cooper- ation and capacity building. (See text of Agreement). More than a thousand years of history between India and the ASEAN countries, experts agree, is being seemingly infused with new life, geared toward economic, strategic, national security, envi- ronment, and connectivity, in this modern and technological age. "ASEAN is central to India's 'Act East' Policy. And, our ties are a source of balance and harmony in the region," Modi said on Sept. 8, 2016, noting that the engage- ment was driven not just by shared civilizational heritage, but "also driven by our common strategic priorities of securing our societies and bringing peace, sta- bility and prosperity to the region." His pro-active approach to ASEAN, maturing it from the 'Look East' emphasis to 'Act East' was articulated just months after Modi took office, at the 12th ASEAN India Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar's new capital, in November, 2014. Walking The Talk While India will not be a member of ASEAN, it is trying to build relations at the institutional level and the individual country level, Dhume notes. By making the ASEAN policy pro-active, New Delhi stands to reap benefits way beyond the more incremental pace of the past, Gupta said, adding, "The strategy itself is not new but has a new invigorated focus." For instance, Modi has traveled far more extensively in the region than Indian leaders before him, and with more clearly targeted economic objectives. "Even though India has for a long time talked about it (engag- ing Southeast Asia), now it is finally walking the talk," Gupta said. India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India's fourth largest trading partner. Bilateral trade stood at approximately US$ 76.53 billion in 2014-15. India's imports from ASEAN are higher by several billions than its exports to the region in recent years, which reality may explain Modi's focus on the economics of the relationship. According to an analysis by Pyaralal Raghavan in the Times of India, India’s exports to ASEAN were up significantly in the initial years -- $18.1 billion in 2009-10 to $ 33.1 billion in 2013-14. But they fell to $ 25.1 billion in 2015-16. The share of Indian exports to ASEAN rose to as high as 16.9% by 2012-13, but dropped to it has 9.5% by 2015-16. Foreign Direct Investment has also not been in India's favor, MEA figures show. Gupta recommends India be even more engaged economically and promotes APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, grouping as one of the solutions. The 21-member APEC stretches all the way from Southeast Asia to Peru, taking in seven ASEAN members and major economies including Australia, China, Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States. Dhume on the other hand, contends APEC is a complex rela- tionship and the more appropriate organization where India can get results is RCEP or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of which India is a member. The RCEP also includes all the ASEAN members and Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand and aims at equalizing economic disparities and broadening and deepening engagement in the economic development of the region, the RCEP website states. Energizing Diplomacy Dhume lauded the policy vigor adopted by New Delhi in more recent years. "Looking toward East Asia is more an example of how the Modi administration has energized Indian diplomacy. It is a symbol of greater ambition. This is a ques- tion of trying to do more in this region, not that the West has become less important," says Brunei: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Brunei Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen Indonesia: President Joko Widodo Laos: Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith Malaysia: Prime Ministers Najib Razak Myanmar: Aung San Su Kyi,Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippines: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Singapore: President Halima Yacob Thailand: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha Vietnam: Prime Minister NguyAân Phúc LIST OF GUESTS