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  • 12 November, 2023

  • 10 Min Read

ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus)

Indonesia is hosting the 10th Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) at Jakarta in 2023 as the chair of ADMM-Plus.

  • ADMM – It is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN.
  • ADMM-Plus – It is a platform for the ASEAN member-states and its 8 dialogue partners collectively called as ‘Plus Countries’.

Plus Countries of ADMM-Plus were India, U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India became the dialogue partner of the ASEAN in 1992.

  • Meeting – 1st edition was held in Hanoi (Capital of Vietnam) in 2010 and it is held annually since 2017.
  • Objectives - To enhance regional peace and stability through cooperation in defence and security.
  • To contribute to the realisation of Bali Concord II and Vientiane Action Programme.

Bali Concord II embodies ASEAN’s aspiration to achieve peace, and stability with one another and with the world at large.

Vientiane Action Programme calls for ASEAN to build a secure and prosperous ASEAN and to adopt outward-looking external relation strategies with its friends and Dialogue Partners.

  • 7 Focus areas – maritime security (MS), counter-terrorism (CT), humanitarian assistance and disaster management (HADR), peacekeeping operations (PKO), military medicine (MM), humanitarian mine action (HMA) and cyber security (CS).
  • Experts Working Groups (EWGs) – 1 EWG has been created to facilitate cooperation for each of the 7 focus areas.
  • Each EWGs is co-chaired by 1 ASEAN Member States and 1 Plus Country, operating in a 3-year cycle.
  • In the present cycle from 2021-2024, India is co-chairing EWG on HADR along with Indonesia.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states.

  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
  • 8th August is observed as ASEAN Day.
  • ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.

The 24th ASEAN-India Senior Official's Meeting (SOM) was hosted in Delhi.India and ASEAN celebrated the 30th anniversary of their Dialogue Relations.

Who are the Member Nations?

  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Brunei
  • Vietnam
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia

Genesis of ASEAN Lie?

  • 1967 – ASEAN was established with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers.Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • 1990s – Membership doubled after the changing conditions in the region following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the Cold War in 1991.Addition of Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).
  • 1995 – Members signed a deal to create a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia.
  • 1997 – Adoption of ASEAN Vision 2020.
  • 2003 – Bali Concord II for the establishment of an ASEAN Community.
  • 2007 – Cebu Declaration, to accelerate the establishment of ASEAN Community by 2015.
  • 2008 – ASEAN Charter comes into force and becomes a legally binding agreement.
  • 2015 – Launch of ASEAN Community.
    • ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars:
      • ASEAN Political-Security Community
      • ASEAN Economic Community
      • ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

What are the Objectives of ASEAN?

  • To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations.
  • To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields.
  • To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, the improvement of transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of peoples.
  • To promote Southeast Asian studies.
  • To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations.

What are the Fundamental Principles of ASEAN?

  • The ASEAN fundamental principles, as contained in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) of 1976
    • Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations.
    • The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion.
    • Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.
    • Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner.
    • Renunciation of the threat or use of force.
    • Effective cooperation among themselves.

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.

Forums are led by ASEAN?

  • 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.
  • ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Meeting: The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN and its eight Dialogue Partners to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.
    • The ADMM-Plus countries include ten ASEAN Member States and eight Plus countries, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, ROK, Russian Federation, and the United States.
    • The first ADMM-Plus was convened at Ha Noi, Vietnam in 2010.

What are the Strengths of ASEAN?

  • ASEAN commands far greater influence on Asia-Pacific trade, political, and security issues than its members could achieve individually.
  • Demographic dividend – As of 1 July 2019, the population of the ASEAN was about 655 million people (8.5% of the world population).
  • Economic:
    • Major global hub of manufacturing and trade, as well as one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world.
    • 7th largest economy in the world. It is projected to rank as the fourth-largest economy by 2050.
    • ASEAN has the third-largest labor force in the world, behind China and India.
    • Free-trade agreements (FTAs)
      • ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area
      • ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreements
      • ASEAN-India Free Trade Area
      • ASEAN – Japan Free Trade Area
      • ASEAN-Republic of Korea Free Trade Area
      • ASEAN – Hong Kong, China Free Trade Area
      • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
    • ASEAN is the fourth-largest exporting region in the world, trailing only the European Union, North America, and China/Hong Kong acccounting for 7% of global exports.
  • ASEAN has contributed to regional stability by building much-needed norms and fostering a neutral environment to address shared challenges.

What are the Challenges within ASEAN?

  • Regional imbalances in the economic and social status of its individual markets.
  • 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 a 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.

What opportunities does ASEAN provide for India?

ASEAN is significant for India in several ways:

  • Potential market: ASEAN constitutes the 3rd largest market in the world. This can help India utilize its export potential.
  • Convergence with Indo-Pacific strategy: ASEAN is a crucial component of India's "Act East" policy and its "Indo-Pacific" strategy, reflecting the convergence of interests in the region.
  • Countering China’s influence: Strengthening relations with ASEAN countries can serve as a counterbalance to China's influence in the region.
  • Connectivity with North East: Connectivity initiatives with ASEAN can boost economic development in India's northeastern states by positioning them as a hub for regional trade and commerce.
  • Important for rule-based order: ASEAN plays a central role in promoting a rules-based security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region, which is essential for the region's stability and prosperity.

What are the areas of cooperation between India and ASEAN?

India and the ASEAN have a wide range of areas of cooperation as ASEAN is one of the important pillars of India’s Act East Policy.

Some of the areas of cooperation are:

  • Annual summit: India currently has annual summits with ASEAN.
    • The formal engagement began with “Sectoral Dialogue Partner” in 1992 and subsequently as a “Dialogue Partner” in 1996. It was upgraded to the Summit level in 2002
  • Trade and Investment: India and ASEAN have signed an FTA that has boosted trade and investment between the two.
    • ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner. Total trade stood at $110.4 billion in 2021-22.
    • ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) was set up in 2005 with the aim of fostering closer business linkages.
  • Regional connectivity: India is working on enhancing connectivity with ASEAN countries through the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project etc.
  • Defense and Security: India and ASEAN have strengthened defence cooperation by conducting joint military exercises such as the ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+).
    • Example: India places ASEAN at the centre of its Indo-Pacific vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
  • Socio-cultural cooperation: India and ASEAN have promoted cultural exchanges to enhance people-to-people ties.
    • Example: Inviting ASEAN students to India each year for the Students Exchange Programme, Special Training Course for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, etc.
  • Education and research: India has established the ASEAN-India Centre at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) to promote research and studies on ASEAN-India relations.
  • Delhi Dialogue, 2009: It is an annual Track 1.5 forum for discussing politico-security, economic and socio-cultural issues between ASEAN and India.
  • Funding: Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund and ASEAN-India Green Fund.

What are the issues and challenges in India-ASEAN relations?

While India and ASEAN have made significant progress in their bilateral relationship, there are still some issues and challenges that hinder their cooperation.

  • Trade Imbalances: India's trade deficit with ASEAN has increased over the years. This has led to concerns in India about the benefits of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement.
    • Imports to ASEAN amounts to $68 billion as compared to $42 billion exports in 2021-22
  • Nature of engagement: India still engages with ASEAN countries more on a bilateral basis rather than through a multilateral approach.
  • Competing regional agreements: Engagement with other regional agreements like the RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) diverts attention and resources away from the ASEAN-India relationship.
  • Chinese presence: The existence of other regional powers like China limits the ability of ASEAN to harness India’s potential for regional stability.
  • Limited Connectivity: Despite efforts to enhance connectivity, physical and digital connectivity between India and ASEAN countries remains limited, which affects trade, investment, and people-to-people ties.

What should be the way forward to improve India-ASEAN relations?

Some of the steps that can be taken to improve India-ASEAN relations include:

  • Enlarging QUAD: The concept of QUAD can be expanded to include the ASEAN countries and become a QUAD+ arrangement.
  • Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific: ASEAN countries have limited military ties with China due to maritime disputes. India can fill this gap and become a significant military partner in the region.
  • Strengthening cultural connect: Tourism can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides.
  • Strengthen connectivity: Strengthening land, air, and sea linkages will enhance people-to-people flows, as well as boost business, investment, and tourism.

Collaborating in International and Regional forums: India and ASEAN countries can work together to promote their common interests in international and regional forums such as the United Nations, East Asia Summit, and ASEAN Regional Forum


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