The ASEAN countries and India held a summit this week to discuss a range of economic, cultural, and political issues. Clearing the way for an expanded free trade agreement between the bloc and the economic giant was at the top of the agenda:
[T]he two sides concluded negotiations to expand their free trade agreement (FTA) to services and investment, and took a stride towards the aim of increasing trade to US$100 billion (S$122 billion) by 2015.
The talks come a year after ASEAN and India implemented an FTA in goods - creating one of the world's biggest free trade areas with a market of about 1.8 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of US$2.8 trillion.
But as Reuters reports here, the summit also had a strategic dimension:
Southeast Asian nations and India vowed on Thursday to step up cooperation on maritime security, a move that comes amid tension with China in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea.
In a vision statement agreed at a summit in New Delhi, India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) set their sights on a new "strategic partnership" that would bring closer political, security and economic cooperation.
Significantly, they underlined the need for freedom of navigation, a contentious issue because of competing claims with Beijing over parts of the South China Sea, though there was no mention of China in their statement.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.