ASEAN-India Political Cooperation: How to reinforce a much-needed pillar? Asie.Visions, No. 63, March 2013
India is one of Southeast Asia’s principal neighbors and there is certainly great potential for cooperation with the region and its institutional representation, ASEAN. But does India properly exploit this opportunity? Is Southeast Asia satisfied with the level of engagement?
The bases for cooperation are strong. Since ancient times India’s soft power has played a unique role in Southeast Asia and has contributed to shaping the region’s political culture. Even if colonialism and the Cold War hampered these links, they have been revived with India’s “Look East Policy” in the early 1990s. The relationship has since gathered momentum and evolved into a broad-level interaction encompassing economic and security pillars.
Nevertheless, this study shows that political linkages remain weak and penalized by the absence of a clear vision. This reality is indeed worrying and there is concern that between rising economic and security imperatives there is no room, no time and no investment for a much needed, constructive political dialogue.
The basic argument of this paper is that the missing political link might be detrimental to the whole relationship. The ASEAN - India framework for political cooperation has no substance and could not play a functional role in case of uncertainty or tensions. In a context of growing competition with China, both India and ASEAN need a reinforced partnership that includes a functional form of political cooperation.