India’s relationships with the states and societies of Southeast Asia and with the ASEAN itself have, of course, been transformed since the end of the Cold War. The then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s outreach to the region in the mid-1990s—part of the Look East Policy—was warmly received, as were the efforts of his successors. India became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum and a dialogue partner in 1996, agreed a framework for an India-ASEAN Free Trade Area in 2003, and became a founding member of the East Asia Summit in 2005. India became an ASEAN strategic partner in 2012 and appointed an ambassador to ASEAN in 2015. In 2022, the relationship between ASEAN and India has been upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership. As of 2021-22, India’s bilateral trade with ASEAN now stands at about US$110 billion. Investments between them have grown up and India’s ties with several Southeast Asian states are now much stronger.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has proved an important platform for infrastructure development connecting India to Myanmar and Thailand. Regional security concerns have led to upgrading their defence relationships with the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. Finally, India has played an invaluable diplomatic role in bridging the gap between American, Australian, and Japanese visions for regional security and ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

Please click here to read the full “Ways forward for India and ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific” article published by ASEAN-India Centre, RIS, written by Griffith Asia Institute Acting Director, Professor Ian Hall.