US India Global Review 2018

14 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 Dhume. Modi has ratcheted up this relationship even as President Donald Trump put India front and center in the Asian power equa- tion, renaming the region "Indo- Pacific" from the older "Asia- Pacific" in Washington's strategy. Washington now wants to develop a quadrilateral alliance in the region with India, Australia and Japan. A stronger relationship with the U.S. gives India a strong hand to play with ASEAN, because Washington remains the dominant power in Asia, and ASEAN looks to the U.S. for direction. "If Washington indicates a larger role for India, it strengthens India's hand," Dhume opines. Gupta reverses the equation. India's current assertiveness vis- a-vis ASEAN, and the strong posi- tions it has taken even in areas where personal interests are not so directly connected, is a result of its own strong economic growth, Gupta contends. "India's more confident and engaged outlook and strong econ- omy has led other countries (including the U.S.), to include it in their strategic equation," contends Gupta, for example Washington's "Indo Pacific" frame of reference "suddenly making India the anchor rather than the peripheral country in the region." Yet, while India has begun the process, it needs to play a more active role in Asia and South East Asia, and express its own positions and principles as it has begun doing on wanting "open" seas and the rule of law to govern the seas, experts say. All this is transpiring in the backdrop of increasingly aggres- sive postures adopted by the Chinese leadership in the region, which worry nations of ASEAN and others. Despite this posturing both in the oceans and on India's land border, New Delhi's strong posi- tion on open oceans and the rule of law, harkens to an independ- ence and strength, and an aware- ness that appeasing China sel- dom assures a positive outcome, Gupta notes. ASEAN-India Relationship Built On Measurable Plans Of Action I ndia's 25-year relationship with ASEAN, an organization that was founded in 1967, could be counted among its foreign poli- cy successes. Based on con- crete five-year "Plan(s) of Action" under the rubric of "Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity," the latest being the 2016-2020 plan, the relationship covers political and security con- cerns, economic, socio-cultural cooperation, connectivity and a host of other areas. India's relationship with ASEAN dates back to 1992, growing from merely a "sectoral" dialogue to a "full" dialogue partnership in December 1995. The relationship was further elevated with the con- vening of the ASEAN-India Summit in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from when the ASEAN-India Summit has been held annually. "All these took place in a decade, which clearly signifies the importance of the dialogue partnership to ASEAN and India and the progress made in the cooperation," the organiza- tion says on its website. At the 13th ASEAN-India Summit held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015, the ASEAN lead- ers welcomed Modi's “Act East Policy” and noted the initiatives potentially complemented their own efforts. "Economics is more important than culture for these young economies - looking to build jobs, and interested in trade and manu- facturing," said Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Modi mirrored the goals expressed by ASEAN leaders -- economics was his focus as well. "The substance of our strategic partnership covers all three major segments of ASEAN activities- security, economic and socio-cul- tural. And, the ASEAN India Plan of Action for the period 2016-2020 has served us well in fulfilling our objectives. We have already implemented 54 out of 130 activi- ties identified in the Plan of Action," Modi said in his 2016 address to ASEAN leaders. "Enhancing connectivity in all its dimensions- physical, digital, economic, institutional and cultur- al-is at the heart of India’s strate- gic partnership with ASEAN. And, readiness to link our economic success, and share development experiences with ASEAN nations, especially the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) coun- tries, drives our engagement," Modi asserted. Ela Dutt | Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media