Association Of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Part II

In our previous blog, we discussed ASEAN aim & purposes, genesis and institutional mechanism. In this blog, we will look at ASEAN’s smart cities network, its forums and ASEAN relation with India.

ASEAN Smart Cities Network 

  • At the 32nd ASEAN Summit on 28 April 2018, the ASEAN Leaders established the  ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN).  
  • The ASCN is a collaborative platform where cities from the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) work towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development. 
  • In light of the opportunities and challenges posed by rapid urbanisation and digitalisation, the primary goal of the ASCN is to improve the lives of ASEAN citizens, using technology as an enabler.  
  • By focusing on our people, it adopts an inclusive approach to smart city development that is respectful of human rights and fundamental freedoms as inscribed in the ASEAN Charter.  
  • The networking of Smart Cities across ASEAN also contributes to enhancing mutual understanding across cultures. 

Decision Making: The primary mode of decision-making in ASEAN is consultation and consensus. 

However, the Charter enshrines the principle of ASEAN-X – This means that if all member states are in agreement, a formula for flexible participation may be used so that the members who are ready may go ahead while members who need more time for implementation may apply a  flexible timeline.

ASEAN-led Forums 

  • ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): Launched in 1993, the twenty-seven-member multilateral grouping 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. 

ADMM(ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting) 


The ASEAN Security Community (ASC) Plan of Action, adopted at the 10th ASEAN Summit,  stipulates that ASEAN shall work towards the convening of an annual ASEAN Defence Ministers’  Meeting. 

  • The ADMM is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN.
  • The ADMM aims to promote mutual trust and confidence through a greater understanding of defence and security challenges as well as enhancement of transparency and openness. 


The objectives of the ADMM are: 

  • To promote regional peace and stability through dialogue and cooperation in defence and  security; 
  • To give guidance to existing senior defence and military officials dialogue cooperation in the field of defence and security within ASEAN and between ASEAN and  dialogue partners; 
  • To promote mutual trust and confidence through a greater understanding of defence and security challenges as well as enhancement of transparency and openness; and 
  • To contribute to the establishment of an ASEAN Security Community (ASC) as stipulated in the Bali Concord II and to promote the implementation of the Vientiane Action  Programme (VAP) on ASC. 
  • Practical cooperation in the ASEAN defence sector has grown steadily since its inception in the areas such as maritime security, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping operations,  humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, and defence industry. In  promoting confidence-building measures,  
  • The ADMM has also adopted the Guidelines for Air Military Encounters and the Guidelines for Maritime Interactions. 

ADMM PLUS(ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus) 

  • The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN and its eight Dialogue Partners Australia, China,  India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States (collectively referred to as the “Plus Countries”), to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.  
  • The Inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, on 12 October 2010.
  • Since 2017, the ADMM-Plus meets annually, to allow enhanced dialogue and cooperation among ASEAN and the Plus countries in the midst of an increasingly challenging regional security environment.
  • To benefit ASEAN Member States in building capacity to address shared security  challenges, while cognisant of the differing capacities of various ASEAN Member States;
  • To promote mutual trust and confidence between defence establishments through  greater dialogue and transparency; 
  • To enhance regional peace and stability through cooperation in defence and security, in  view of the transnational security challenges the region faces; 
  • To contribute to the realisation of an ASEAN Security Community which, as stipulated in  the Bali Concord II, embodies ASEAN’s aspiration to achieve peace, stability, democracy and prosperity in the region where the ASEAN Member States live at peace with one another and with the world at large; 
  • To facilitate the implementation of the Vientiane Action Programme, which calls for  ASEAN to build a peaceful, secure and prosperous ASEAN, and to adopt greater outward-looking external relation strategies with our friends and Dialogue Partners. 

The ADMM-Plus has become an effective platform for practical cooperation among the participating countries’ defence establishments. The ADMM-Plus currently focuses on seven areas of practical cooperation, namely maritime security (MS), counter-terrorism (CT),  humanitarian assistance and disaster management (HADR), peacekeeping operations (PKO),  military medicine (MM), humanitarian mine action (HMA) and cybersecurity (CS). Experts  Working Groups (EWGs) have been established to facilitate cooperation in these areas.  

The EWGs are each co-chaired by one ASEAN Member States and one Plus Country, following a three-year cycle. 


The Concept Paper on ADMM-Plus: Principles for Membership, adopted at the 3rd ADMM,  Pattaya, 25-27 February 2009 stipulated the principles for membership to the ADMM-Plus  process, as follows: 

  • The Plus country shall be a full-fledged Dialogue Partner of ASEAN; 
  • The Plus country shall have significant interactions and relations with ASEAN defence  establishment; and 
  • The Plus country shall be able to work with the ADMM to build capacity so as to enhance regional security in a substantive way in order to promote capacity-building in the region in the fields of defence and security.
Strengths & Opportunities 
  • ASEAN commands far greater influence on Asia-Pacific trade, political, and security issues than its members could achieve individually. 
  • Demographic dividend – It constitutes 3rd largest population in the world, of which more than half is below thirty years of age. 
  • Economic: 

o 3rd largest market in the world - larger than EU and North American markets. o 6th largest economy in the world, 3rd in Asia

o Free-trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. 

o Fourth most popular investment destination globally. 

o ASEAN’s share of global exports has also risen, from only 2 per cent in 1967 to 7 per cent by 2016, indicating the rising importance of trade to ASEAN’s economic prospects. 

o The ASEAN Single Aviation Market and Open Skies policies have increased its transport and connectivity potential. 

  • ASEAN has contributed to regional stability by building much-needed norms and fostering a neutral environment to address shared challenges. 
  • Regional imbalances in the economic and social status of its individual markets. 
  • The gap between rich and poor ASEAN member states remains very large and they have a mixed record on income inequality. 
  • While Singapore boasts the highest GDP per capita—nearly $53,000 (2016), Cambodia’s per capita GDP is the lowest at less than $1,300. 
  • Many regional initiatives were not able to be incorporated into national plans, as the less developed countries faced resource constraints to implement the regional commitments. 
  • The members’ political systems are equally mixed with democracies, communist, and authoritarian states. 
  • While the South China Sea is the main issue exposing the organization’s rifts. 
  • ASEAN has been divided over major issues of human rights. For example, crackdowns in Myanmar against the Rohingyas. 
  • Inability to negotiate a unified approach with regards to China, particularly in response to its widespread maritime claims in the South China Sea. 
  • The emphasis on consensus sometimes becomes the chief drawback – difficult problems have been avoided rather than confronted. 
  • There is no central mechanism to enforce compliance. 
  • Inefficient dispute-settlement mechanism, whether it be in the economic or political spheres.

India and ASEAN 

  • India's relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of her foreign policy and the foundation of  Act East Policy. 
  • India has a separate Mission to ASEAN and the EAS in Jakarta. 
  • India and ASEAN already have 25 years of Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership with ASEAN. 
  • Economic Cooperation: 
  • ASEAN is India's fourth-largest trading partner. 
  • India's trade with ASEAN stands at approx. 10.6% of India's overall trade.
  • India's export to ASEAN stands at 11.28% of our total exports. The ASEAN-India  Free Trade Area has been completed. 
  • ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in 2003 to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform. 
  • Socio-Cultural Cooperation: Programmes to boost People-to-People Interaction with  ASEAN, such as inviting ASEAN students to India, Special Training Course for ASEAN  diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, etc. 
  • Funds: Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the following  Funds:  
  • ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund 
  • ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund 
  • ASEAN-India Green Fund 
  • Delhi Declaration: To identify Cooperation in the Maritime Domain as the key area of cooperation under the ASEAN-India strategic partnership. 
  • Delhi Dialogue: Annual Track 1.5 event for discussing politico-security and economic issues between ASEAN and India. 
  • ASEAN-India Centre (AIC): To undertake policy research, advocacy and networking activities with organizations and think-tanks in India and ASEAN. 
  • Political Security Cooperation: India places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region.

This blog pertains to UPSC papers on GS 2, International Organisation, Political Science optional paper 2 and Essay Type Question. Also, do check our previous blogs on various topics. Subscribe today so that you don’t miss out on any important topics.

Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor