ASEAN Current Affairs

India plans to invite Leaders of ASEAN countries for 2018 Republic Day celebrations

India has planned to invite the ten leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as Chief Guests for 2018 Republic Day celebrations. This Plan has come at a time when India is engaged in a stand-off with China in the Sikkim sector.

If invited Republic Day 2018 would be the first Republic Day event that will have so many leaders as the chief guests. In the recent past, world leaders like former US President Barack Obama, former French President François Hollande and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have been invited as the chief guests for the Republic Day celebrations.

Background

India’s commitment to strengthen its ties with ASEAN countries is reflected by its ‘Look East Policy’ becoming ‘Act East Policy.’ At the India-ASEAN Summit held in Myanmar in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that India’s ‘Look East Policy’ has become ‘Act East Policy.’

With respect to the focus areas of cooperation with ASEAN, the External Affairs Minister described them in terms of three Cs-Commerce, Connectivity and Culture.

This year also marks the 25 years of dialogue partnership between India and ASEAN, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership. India and ASEAN had upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership in 2012.

ASEAN

ASEAN consists of 10-member countries- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The founder members of the grouping were Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand. Later the group was expanded by adding the remaining members with Cambodia becoming the last entrant added to the group in 1999.

ASEAN came into existence on August 8, 1967, after ASEAN declaration (also known as Bangkok Declaration). It is a regional organisation that aims to promote intergovernmental cooperation and economic integration amongst its members.

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China, ASEAN Countries Agree on Framework for South China Sea Code of Conduct

China and the 10 member of the ASEAN grouping have agreed to a framework of a legally binding code of conduct aimed at preventing disputes in the strategic South China Sea. Though the draft of the framework has been finalised, no details about the text of the framework agreement has been released. Also, no date has been given on which the full code of conduct is set to be adopted by the parties. However, all the parties have agreed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations and work towards the early conclusion of the code of conduct.

Background

China and the ASEAN members had committed to sign a code of conduct around 15 years ago. But the pace of the negotiations was slow as China claimed the South China in its entirety. ASEAN members like Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea. In the absence of the code of conduct, each country followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which has a provision committing parties to explore ways to build trust and confidence based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. Last year, China was enraged by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, the Netherlands, which in its ruling has rejected China’s claims to economic rights across large swathes of South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines.

10 ASEAN Members: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

South China Sea

South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries / territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships. The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. The Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal are also part of South China Sea. Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.

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