An IDC Analysis

New Delhi, 24 November 2004

The ASEAN summit is due to be held later this year and a visionary document and a plan of action between ASEAN and India will be signed in Vientiane. This is expected to boost the current ASEAN–India trade now at US$13 billion to US$30 billion by 2007. We append a statement but first a preamble.

Indian businessmen are showing off their wealth. Manikchand of Gutka fame buys his daughter a Maybach Mercedes for her birthday (cost Rs 5.5 crores), Mittals and Amar Singh glitter, 12 Giraffes and Zulu dancers for Gulshan Kumar's daughter's wedding in Amritsar and this shows confidence of wealth. Indian leaders also now confidently voice opinions on the regional security issues as a regional power, and PM Manmohan Singh visited Kashmir in mid November and announced immediate troop reduction of a Division strength (9000), though not in Siachen. This shows confidence.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia want the Indian Navy to jointly patrol their waters especially the Malacca Straits and others watch Indiia’s growing clout. Singapore is pragmatic. The Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil have also conceded that infiltration from Pakistan had subsided, thanks to 734 km of fencing being completed by the Indian Army Engineers under OP Deewaar (Wall), use of Danish Hyderma 910 mine clearance machines, imported and local warning devices and aggressive operations.

The Chairman Chief’s of Staff Committee ACM S Krishnaswamy also down played Pakistan’s Air Force capabilities and while delivering the prestigious IDSA National Security Lecture in Delhi on 11 Nov went on to state that a war with Pakistan was neither desirable nor feasible under the new conditions in the world, but India would keep its powder dry and ready. Krishnaswamy recently visited Chile and Myanmar and when questioned as to why India was placating undemocratic regimes, his answer was there are various forms of democracy, but India has to look to defence exports and new opportunities. India also sees Iran which has asked for Super Fledermaus radar from BEL and other assistance, in the light that India is on a growth path and in exchange India desires its gas and oil supplies along with uranium in the long term. USA may frown on this but national interests always should come first.

The Defence Minister speaking to the Navy Foundation also stressed the need for defence exports and to increase the limit of 26% Foreign Direct Investment allowed to foreign firms and other incentives. HAL announced the impending dispatch of one ALH Dhruv helicopter as export to Israel and other orders in the pipeline. There is a mood in India to globalise in the defence sector too.

Now the Asean summit comes as a boost and all nations except Bangladesh are cooperating with India. Pakistan will soon realise cooperation is better than confrontation and in any case the LOC is fenced by the Army Engineers so it is the de facto International Border, as the world sees it and will support. PM Shaukat Aziz arrives on 23 November and now we learn that President Musharraf's plan for Kashmir on ethnic lines that K Subhramanyam supported in TOI on 22 November was only for Pakistan's internal consumption!  

The ASEAN Summit: Continuing The Dynamism

By Ong Keng Yong

ASEAN Secretary General, Jakarta

22 November 2004

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will end the year 2004 on a high note. A record number of about 20 major agreements and declarations are expected to be signed or adopted either by the ASEAN member countries or between ASEAN and its partners in the Lao capital of Vientiane next week. This is the culmination of year-long consultations, negotiations and consensus-building that demonstrates ASEAN's continued dynamism and relevance.

The 10th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Vientiane will take up issues ranging from setting strategic directions to adopting follow-up cooperative activities and discussing results of commissioned studies by experts. The subjects cover the spheres of peace and security, economic integration (in particular, the priority integration of eleven selected sectors in ASEAN) and socio-cultural development. The event will have something for everybody: those in the public sector, private sector and the civil society.

The Vientiane Summit is a vote of confidence in Laos' ability to undertake its responsibilities in steering ASEAN this year. Hosting the ASEAN summit and its related meetings for the first time, Laos will have an opportunity to focus the regional media's attention on the country.

The summit in Vientiane will see in action freshly mandated heads of state/government from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore. The good group chemistry of their predecessors and the other ASEAN Leaders had a most positive effect on ASEAN summit diplomacy, bringing out the best of the diversity in Southeast Asia.

There will be a keen interest to see a replication of such constructive group dynamics. The new Prime Minister of Myanmar is likely to be the most watched as he updates his counterparts on the situation in his country since his predecessor obtained ASEAN Leaders' support of a roadmap for national reconciliation at the last ASEAN Summit in Bali in October 2003.

The ASEAN Leaders are expected to adopt the six-year Vientiane Action Program (VAP) to continue the implementation of the goals laid down in the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the Bali Concord II. The VAP incorporates, among other things, ASEAN's specific commitments to establish the ASEAN Community, including the plans of action on the ASEAN Economic Community, the ASEAN Security Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

These commitments for community-building are also designed to narrow the development gap among the ASEAN Member Countries. The VAP serves as a cross-sectoral and inter-facing instrument to tie in the various practical actions for the period 2004 to 2010.

Australia and New Zealand

In addition to the annual ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) and ASEAN-India summitry, this year will also see ASEAN leaders meeting their counterparts from neighbouring Australia and New Zealand. Commemorating three decades of cooperative relations, the leaders of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand are expected to elevate the current economic relationship under the AFTA-CER Closer Economic Partnership to a higher level by launching negotiations on establishing an ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Area within 10 years.

Drawing alongside the closer economic arrangements that China, Japan and India have each entered with ASEAN in the past two years, the Republic of Korea, this time, will sign with ASEAN a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership. The Declaration will mandate the establishment of an ASEAN-RoK Free Trade Area (AKFTA) to be realized within ten years or earlier. The AKFTA will involve progressive elimination of all forms of barriers to trade in goods, services and investment. ASEAN and the South Korea are the 5th largest trading partners for each other and ASEAN is the third largest destination of FDI from the South Korea.

ASEAN and China will carry forward the process laid down in the 2002 Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation by entering into agreements on trade in goods and on dispute settlement mechanisms. The two-way trade between ASEAN and China in 2003 was close to US$79 billion. For 2004, the booming economy of China and the higher than expected GDP growth in ASEAN will mean a bilateral trade of nearly US$100 billion. Thus, the target of US$100 billion for ASEAN-China trade by 2005 is within easy reach.

Cognizant that international terrorism remains a threat to peace and security in the region, ASEAN and Japan are expected to launch cooperation to counter international terrorism through information exchange, intelligence sharing and capacity-building. Both sides will designate national focal points to coordinate the implementation of the proposed Joint Declaration.

At the same time, the ASEAN-Japan Summit will review the progress of implementation of the closer economic partnership framework, which was launched in 2003, particularly on the consultations towards the liberalization of trade in goods, services, and investment.

An innovative and significantly symbolic event is the ASEAN-India Car Rally from India's northeast Guwahati City to the Indonesian island of Batam. The Rally will be flagged off by the Indian Prime Minister one week before the summit and the cars will be in Vientiane in time for the ASEAN-India Summit on Nov. 30.

From India, the car rally will traverse Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and will end in Batam. The car rally will underline the geographic contiguity between India and Southeast Asia and bring home a point that ASEAN and India are connected and accessible through land transport.

A visionary document and a plan of action between ASEAN and India will be signed in Vientiane. This is expected to boost the current ASEAN-India trade of US$13 billion to US$30 billion by 2007.


The foreign minister of Russia will travel to Vientiane to sign an instrument of accession to ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Russia will be the sixth country outside of Southeast Asia -- after Papua New Guinea, China, India, Japan and Pakistan - to adhere to the purposes and principles of the Treaty, which prescribes a code of conduct in inter-state relations and a process of pacific settlement of disputes in Southeast Asia. The Republic of Korea is also expected to accede to the Treaty at the Vientiane Summit.

There is no doubt that the ten diverse ASEAN Member Countries and a similar number of dialogue partners make ASEAN community-building and international relations a complex undertaking. Yet, there is an audacious enterprise among ASEAN and its partners to get great value from such a configuration.

ASEAN has remained focused on consolidating economic integration, maintaining inter-state peace and stability and promoting human security and development. ASEAN has positioned itself strategically as the hub of future-oriented regional dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. ASEAN is determined to share its dynamism and optimism for the future with those who believe in prospering together.

The author is the ASEAN Secretary General in Jakarta. The views expressed are personal.

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