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Pulling leverage over China : ASEAN-India Summit

India completes 25 years of association with South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. To mark thos event, the ASEAN summit was held in Delhi yesterday with the agenda of maritime cooperation and peppered discussions on cross border terrorism.

The discussion was mostly centered around “maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and over-flight in the region” alluding to the territorial aggression that most South-East Asian nations face from China. Amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region, specific mention of South China Sea was made.

Speaking at the opening of the comprehensive session of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared, “We are committed to work with ASEAN nations to enhance collaboration in the maritime domain.”

It is a hopeful angle that India’s and ASEAN’s economies, if jointly calculated, would comprise the third-largest economy in the world.

Crucially, affluence, while not as rapid as when compared to the United States or Europe, is rising at its own pace. About 550 million Indians will be defined as middle class by 2025, twice the number today and adding more to the global pool than any other country. Similarly, in the ten-member ASEAN region, the number of middle class households is forecast to roughly double in number by 2025 compared to as many there were in 2010.

Hence for growth, better connectivity is required within the nations to promote trade and cooperation.
PM Modi at the trade summit was quoted saying that “Our trade has grown 25 times in 25 years. Investments are robust and growing. We will further enhance trade ties and work towards greater interaction among our business communities.”

Connectivity is the surest method of making inroads into South-East Asia and shift trade leverage from China to India

The leaders vowed to promote “maritime transport cooperation”, develop seaports, and strengthen cooperation in the area of aviation with the expeditious conclusion of the “ASEAN-India Air Transport Agreement (AI-ATA), and the ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Agreement (AI-MTA).”

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