US India Global Review 2018

27 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 ments. Recent developments in both nations have put India’s security and foreign policy establishment into a quagmire. The idea of other countries like Nepal and probably even Bhutan joining the concept of Pax Sinica should ring alarm bells for India's foreign policymak- ers. When India initiated its ‘Look East’ policy in 1991 and opened up its economy, it was supposed to be an automated path where India and ASEAN countries, 25 years down the line, were deeply integrated through economic, social, cultural and political asso- ciations. The reality today is that India is not even close to the trade figures China has with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). India’s latest trade figures with ASEAN are around US$ 80 billion. China’s trading figures with ASEAN has crossed US$ 450 bil- lion and expected to touch US$ 1 trillion by 2020. (http://www.asiaone.com/busi- ness/china-asean-trade-hit-us1- trillion-2020) China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is expected to boost the flow of trade between China and ASEAN's six most prominent economies - Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - to an investment amount of about US$2.1 trillion by 2030, according to an analysis by HSBC. (https://www.thestar.com.my/busi- ness/business- news/2017/05/20/chinas-bri-seen- boosting-trade-with-asean-to- us21-trillion/) The massive gap in trade alone is a dampener for India’s future with ASEAN. The terminology was changed from ‘Look’ to ‘Act East’ in 2014, but the approach has remained the old principles of shared values, a common destiny, shared prosperity, culture and dwelling on technical jargon of relations becoming ‘strategic’ in nature. While celebrating 25 years of relations, it is this ‘strategic part- nership’ that needs to be given more impetus in ASEAN-India relations. India needs to effectively engage ASEAN to keep the sea lanes of communications open in the South China Sea amidst over- lapping territorial claims with China. ASEAN countries other than Cambodia and Lao PDR are searching for a power to balance China in the region and would be keenly observing how India tack- les the overlapping conflicts. If proceedings of the recently held CSCAP (Council for Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific) meet- ing in December 2017 are taken into consideration, the prevailing sense among ASEAN delegates has been of apprehension towards China’s intimidating eco- nomic tactics. (http://www.ibtimes.sg/india- needs-harmonise-ties-global- power-centres-22907) Meanwhile, some foreign pol- icy analysts from Southeast Asia have questioned the lack of per- formance by India, hinting at a subtle resistance to the concept of “Indo-Pacific” as a replacement to the old “Asia-Pacific”. India was also called out on its ‘Act East’ policy looking more like ‘At Ease’ policy. (http://indianexpress.com/article/o pinion/columns/asean-cscap- security-look-east-indian-navy-a- strategy-for-the-sea-5013281/) Counter-terrorism, security and trade will top the agenda dur- ing the India-ASEAN summit. The overall concern has always been what India brings to the table for ASEAN countries. In security mat- ters, ASEAN has always followed the policy of centrality or neutrality and mostly refrained from taking any military action. ASEAN coun- tries always had good relations with China until the South China Sea controversy erupted. As the current state of affairs unfolds with challenges to the global order stemming from an assertive and coercive China doling out soft loans and investments, it has become imperative to address matters of regional security in the context of overlapping territorial conflicts. There is now an emerging new aspect to territorial sovereign- ty issues with China wielding its financial clout in countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives, indicat- ing a predatory approach of debt- trap diplomacy. From South America to Africa and South- Southeast Asia, China has ensnared a large number of coun- tries in its debt and taken over ports and bases at strategic loca- tions to raise its global presence. (https://www.project- syndicate.org/commentary/china- sri-lanka-hambantota-port-debt- by-brahma-chellaney-2017-12) It is in these matters that India’s latest trade figures with ASEAN are around US$ 80 billion. China’s trading figures with ASEAN has crossed US$ 450 billion and expected to touch US$ 1 trillion by 2020.

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