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India, ASEAN and RCEP


After the World Wars finally came to a complete halt, associations were formed to generate peace and tranquility in the world. The formation of the UN and the fierce cold war led to the emergence of various small and big associations.

On 8th August, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was born with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration (ASEAN Declaration).

The ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam cooperate in areas of politics, economy and security.

Headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia, its chairmanship rotates annually on the basis of alphabetical orders of the English names of member states.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into existence on the sidelines of the 37th ASEAN summit.

RCEP obviously consists of all the 10 members of ASEAN. Besides, China, Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand are also the major members of the RCEP.

India also decided to be a part of the RCEP, but it withdrew in November 2019.

RCEP would basically be a free-trade agreement between the member countries.

India and ASEAN:

India has always had good relation with the ASEAN countries. It is the 4th largest trading partner of ASEAN with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.

Since the ongoing border tensions with China, India has strengthened its relations with ASEAN.

Recently, India has participated in the 17th India-ASEAN virtual summit, headed by Vietnam, ASEAN’s current chair.

India upheld ASEAN’s centrality with respect to India’s East Policy and against backdrop of aggressive steps by China against India.

In the meeting, the significance of ASEAN’s outlook on Indo-Pacific and India’s Indo Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI) was upheld.

India’s SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) vision and importance of ASEAN’s cooperation in the vision was also highlighted.

To support ASEAN’s connectivity, India reiterated its offer of USD 1 billion Line of Credit.

A contribution of 1 million USD as COVID-19 response fund was also announced.

ASEAN welcomed the adoption of new ASEAN-India Plan of Action for 2021-2025.

ASEAN acknowledged India’s capacity-building initiatives including, the PhD Fellowship Programs at the IIT’s and setting up Centers for Excellence in Software, Development and Training.

The China-backed group is expected to emerge as the largest Free trade Agreement (FTA) in the world, surpassing both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union (EU).

India majorly withdrew from the RCEP because it would give access to the Chinese products to flood the Indian markets.

The RCEP free trade agreement was signed between the member countries on 15th November, 2020.

India, however, is again willing to join the RCEP. But why?

Before that you can explore numerous reasons on why India decided to exit from the agreement through the following trusted link:


Additional information:

Do you know about the Quad countries?

Well in November 2017, Japan, United States, India and Australia agreed to form a mini lateral association.

The association has its controversies as it is said to be “anti-Chinese”.

Click here to know more about quad.


Coming to the point:

India is planning again to join the RCEP because of the inclusion two important quad countries: Japan and Australia.

Moreover, presence of countries like South Korea and New Zealand, which are the fastest developing countries, lured Indian experts to join the RCEP.

How to join the RECP?

On November 4, 2019, India walked out of the RCEP as the negotiations didn’t favor India’s interest.

As India plans to join the RCEP again, it will have to re-apply for the membership.

However, PM Narendra Modi, while addressing India-ASEAN summit, observed silence on joining the RCEP, due to the ongoing India-China border conflict.

Joining RCEP: Wise or not?

A topic, not of major concern to the social media, but of intellectual importance grabs the attention of the experts.

As India heads to join the RCEP, experts give varied opinions.

Some say joining RCEP may prove to be a draconian step in the near future. Chinese goods would flood the Indian markets and Indian Rupee would drain. While a majority are in the opinion that India should join the world’s largest FTA.

Former foreign secretary, Shyama Saran, in an interview by The Hindu said, ‘RCEP is not just a trading agreement; leaving it is a short-sighted move’.


He supported India’s move of joining the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Some experts have even warned that once RCEP is adopted, trade between RCEP countries would gain primacy. This could affect trade ties with other non-member countries, including India.

Everything has its pros and cons. The things which have more pros than cons are accepted.

The border conflict and China’s expansionist policies towards India has undoubtedly infuriated a massive population. However, one cannot run any economic activity by emotions.

We cannot judge whether the joining of the RCEP would be a judicious step by India or not. No one has seen the future, but a majority of predictions by the experts suggest that joining the RCEP may prove to be beneficial for India.

Author:- Shubhanshi from team

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