ASEAN is an intergovernmental organization of ten South East Asian countries. ASEAN members include Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The SAARC was founded by seven countries in 1985. Members include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

India is part of various trading blocs, as well as organisations. Since current affairs carry considerable weightage in prelims, knowledge about India – ASEAN and India – SAARC relations,  is integral to your UPSC preparation.

Facts to Know about ASEAN for UPSC

#The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organisation founded to foster political and social stability in the Asia-Pacific region’s post-colonial governments.

#ASEAN’s slogan is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.”

#The 8th of August is designated as ASEAN Day.

#Jakarta is the home of the ASEAN Secretariat.

ASEAN Member Nations

ASEAN member countries are –











Historical Significance

1967 – The founding fathers of ASEAN signed the Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) to formalise the organisation.

The founding fathers are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

1995 – Members agreed to establish a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia.

1997 – The ASEAN Vision 2020 is adopted.

2015 – The ASEAN Community is established.

2020-ASEAN nations will sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade deal negotiated since 2012, with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea in November 2020.

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India and ASEAN- How it Began?

#The partnership between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a critical pillar of her foreign policy and the cornerstone of Act East Policy.

#In Jakarta, India maintains a separate Mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the EAS.

#India and ASEAN have previously had a dialogue partnership for 25 years, a summit-level contact for 15 years, and a strategic partnership for 5 years.

#The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is India’s fourth-largest commercial partner.

#India’s trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations accounts for around 10.6 percent of India’s total trade.

#India’s exports to ASEAN account for 11.28 percent of total exports. The ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement is now finalised.

#The Association of Southeast Asian Nations India-Business Council (AIBC) was founded in 2003 with the goal of bringing significant private sector actors from India and the ASEAN countries together on a single platform.

#ASEAN nations have received financial help from the following funds:

Fund for ASEAN-India Cooperation

ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund

Green Fund for ASEAN and India

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Why is ASEAN Important to India?

#India needs robust diplomatic ties with ASEAN states for economic and security reasons.

#Connectivity with Association of Southeast Asian Nations nations may enable India to strengthen its position in the region. These connection initiatives maintain Northeast India in the centre, assuring the northeastern states’ economic progress.

#Improved commercial connections with ASEAN nations would provide a counterbalance to China’s position in the area, as well as economic growth and development for India.

#Association of Southeast Asian Nations holds a pivotal place in the Indo-Pacific rules-based security architecture, which is critical for India because the majority of its commerce is dependent on maritime stability.

What is India ASEAN Act East Policy?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that improving all forms of communication with the 10-nation ASEAN grouping, including social, digital, and financial domains, is a top goal for India. He made the comments during a virtual meeting between India and ASEAN. He noted that,

#cohesion, responsiveness, and prosperity ASEAN is vital to India’s Indo-Pacific Vision and contributes to the region’s security and growth (SAGAR).

#the significance of increasing convergence between India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific in order to guarantee a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific area.

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Significance of SAARC?

#The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded on December 8, 1985, with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka.

#Afghanistan joined SAARC for the first time at the 13th annual summit in 2005.

#The Association’s headquarters and secretariat are in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Importance of SAARC

#SAARC accounts for 3% of the world’s land area, 21% of the world’s population, and 3.8 percent (US$2.9 trillion) of the global economy.

#It is the world’s most densely inhabited region, as well as one of the most fruitful.

#SAARC nations share traditions, attire, food, culture, and political characteristics, allowing them to coordinate their efforts.

India and SAARC

Let us look at the reasons behind the culmination of India – SAARC relationship:

#Neighbourhood first: Priority is given to the country’s close neighbours.

#Geostrategic importance: Can challenge China’s OBOR project by involving Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka in the development process and economic cooperation.

#Regional stability: SAARC can aid in the development of mutual trust and peace in the area.

SAARC Achievements

#The member nations have formed a Free Trade Area (FTA), which will promote internal trade and significantly reduce the trade deficit of some nations.

#SAPTA, or the South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement, went into force in 1995 to promote commerce among member nations.

#SAFTA: A Free Trade Agreement that is limited to products but excludes all services such as information technology. A deal was struck to lower customs charges on all traded commodities to zero by 2016.

#SAARC University: Set up a SAARC university in India, as well as a food bank and an energy reserve in Pakistan.


In this article, we have discussed the origin and the significance of the India – ASEAN, India – SAARC relationship. Knowledge about trading bloc and organisation like SAARC is important in the preparation of the UPSC examination. Every year a considerable amount of questions are asked from current affairs. If you are new to the UPSC preparation and feel perplexed about where to start, then go through our website. Our knowledgeable mentors, with their several years of experience, will provide you with every answer to your queries.

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Knowledge of international affairs is one of the important aspects of UPSC preparation. Click to know about the SAARC and ASEAN, since they are integral to India shaping our foreign policy.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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