India politics: Quick View - External affairs minister visits three ASEAN countries

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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India's minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, made official visits to Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia between January 4th-8th.


Ms Swaraj's visit to South-east Asia highlights India's focus on increasing engagement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). India continues to push for greater economic engagement with Thailand, including attempts to make the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway network operational. Meanwhile, engagement between India and Indonesia is dominated by security and maritime concerns, as is evident from regular bilateral military exercises, such as the annual "Corpat" naval exercise. Ms Swaraj stressed Indonesia's key role in maintaining security in the Asia-Pacific region during her visit, which was followed by further talks between high-ranking security officials from the two countries on January 9th. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects India and Indonesia to continue to expand their security ties over our forecast period. In contrast, Ms Swaraj's visit to Singapore focused on public-private co-operation, particularly in the infrastructure sector, which we expect both countries to continue to promote during 2018-22. Singaporean businesses are already involved in the development in India of the planned city of Amravathi in Andhra Pradesh, as well as managing an airport in Durgapur.

India remains concerned about increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region, and has tried to deepen military co-operation with ASEAN nations to counter this influence. These efforts have included the sale of military equipment to Vietnam, as well as frequent military exercises with ASEAN countries like Singapore, Myanmar and Thailand. Trade between India and the ASEAN bloc is also increasing. In 2016/17 (April-March), total India-ASEAN trade expanded by 7.7% year on year (in US dollar value terms). We expect India-ASEAN trade to grow at a similar pace in the coming years, while security ties will remain a priority in India's diplomatic engagement with the bloc in 2018-22.

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