Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN is an organisation formed by the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore in 1967 to promote economic growth, peace, security, social progress and cultural development in the Southeast Asian region.

Read about ASEAN for the IAS Exam preparation.

Latest Updates About ASEAN

Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting’  was held recently in New Delhi, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations in 2022. The year 2022 has been designated as the ‘ASEAN-India Friendship Year’. This year also marks the tenth anniversary of India’s strategic cooperation with ASEAN. Trade between India and the ASEAN region surpassed $78 billion in 2021. In the recent talks, the leaders batted for greater connectivity and integration with South Asia through the country.

The key issues discussed in the meeting were:

  • Geopolitical headwinds from the Russia-Ukraine war:
    • The Russia -Ukrain crisis has led to exacerbating concerns over food, fertiliser and fuel security, thus the ASEAN meeting highlighted the need for countries of the Indo-Pacific to enhance cooperation and to stand together, in this global scenario. The ways to mitigate the spilling effect of the crisis were discussed.
    • It emphasised that ASEAN nations need to be able to maintain a “rules-based international order” that “recognises the diversity of Asia and makes the necessary adjustments to the post-WWII institutions”.
  • The sharpening of superpower rivalry between the US and China and its direct implications on all of Asia were also discussed.  It is also highlighted that the development of the ties on three mutuals- mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutuality of interests should be emphasised.
  • The two sides resolved to expand cooperation in key sectors such as trade, connectivity, defence, vaccine production and clean energy and agreed to review the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) to ensure a more user-friendly, simple and trade facilitation.
  • Recognising the importance of the health sector, the meeting agreed to cooperate in vaccine production and distribution, research and innovation in generic medicines, cooperation on traditional medicines, strengthening public health infrastructure and enhancing capacities for preparedness and response to pandemics and public health emergencies.
  • The meeting reaffirmed commitment to multilateralism founded on the principles of international law including the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)and other relevant UN treaties and conventions.

Myanmar, one of ASEAN’s ten member nations run by a military junta, was not invited to the summit because of disagreements over their lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed upon by the 10-member group last year to help ease the country’s violent political crisis. Ministerial Session of Delhi Dialogue XII, also took place along with the ASEAN meeting. Delhi Dialogue was jointly organised by the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and the Economic and Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).

In 2021: The first-ever India-ASEAN hackathon was held from 1st to 4th February 2021. This first-ever online hackathon was organized for students and mentors from 10 ASEAN Countries and India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the hackathon at the 16th India ASEAN summit in November 2019. It was an online hackathon jointly organized by the Indian Ministries of Education and Extern Affairs. The themes of the hackathon were ‘Blue Economy’ and ‘Education.’

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ASEAN History

ASEAN was established on 8th August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration (a.k.a ASEAN Declaration) by the founding fathers of the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. The preceding organisation was the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) comprising of Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

Five other nations joined the ASEAN in subsequent years making the current membership to ten countries.

ASEAN Members

  • Thailand (founding member)
  • The Philippines (founding member)
  • Malaysia (founding member)
  • Singapore (founding member)
  • Indonesia (founding member)
  • Brunei (joined in 1984)
  • Vietnam (joined in 1995)
  • Lao PDR (joined in 1997)
  • Myanmar (joined in 1997)
  • Cambodia (joined in 1999)

There are two observer States namely, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste (East Timor).

Learn about India’s relations with the ASEAN Nations from the links given below:

The Human Development Index rankings of the ASEAN members are given in the table below:

ASEAN Members by Human Development Index 2020-21

Country HDI Comments
Brunei 0.838 Very High
Cambodia 0.594 Medium (Lowest among ASEAN members)
Indonesia 0.718 High
Laos 0.613 Medium
Malaysia 0.810 Very High
Myanmar 0.583 Medium
Philippines 0.718 High
Singapore 0.938 Very High (Highest HDI among ASEAN members
Thailand 0.777 High

ASEAN Purpose

  1. Accelerating economic growth, cultural development, and social progress in the region by joint initiatives in the spirit of partnership and equality to cement the foundation for a peaceful and strong community of SE Asian countries.
  2. Promoting peace and stability in the region by incorporating respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationships between nations and adherence to the United Nations principles.
  3. Promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in subjects of common interest in social, economic, cultural, administrative, scientific, and technical domains.
  4. Assisting member countries via training and research facilities in the educational, administrative, technical, and professional domains.
  5. Cooperating for better usage of agriculture and industries, trade expansion (including studying the problem of international commodity trade), improving communication and transportation facilities, and improving living standards among the people.
  6. Promoting SE Asian studies.
  7. Exploring more avenues for further cooperation among themselves, and maintaining close and advantageous cooperation with other international groupings of similar objectives.

ASEAN Fundamental Principles

  1. Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations;
  2. The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion;
  3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another;
  4. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner;
  5. Renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
  6. Effective cooperation among themselves.

ASEAN Headquarters

  • The body is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • Secretary-General: Dato Lim Jock Hoi
  • Official Languages: Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese
  • Working Language: English

ASEAN-led Forums:

  • ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): It was launched in 1993. It is a twenty-seven-member multilateral grouping that was developed to facilitate cooperation on political and security issues to contribute to regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.
  • ASEAN Plus Three: The consultative group initiated in 1997 brings together ASEAN’s ten members, China, Japan, and South Korea.
  • East Asia Summit (EAS): First held in 2005, the summit seeks to promote security and prosperity in the region and is usually attended by the heads of state from ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. ASEAN plays a central role as the agenda-setter.

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Frequently Asked Questions on ASEAN

Q 1. When is ASEAN Day observed?

Ans. August 8 every year is observed as the ASEAN Day. The 54th ASEAN Day will be observed on August 8, 2021.

Q 2. What is ASEAN Charter?

Ans. The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008. It serves as a firm foundation in achieving the ASEAN Community by providing legal status and institutional framework for ASEAN.

Q 3. What is the motto of ASEAN?

Ans. The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

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