Watch the full video (above) of the webinar on ‘India's economic engagement in Asia: how should it change after Ladakh?’ featuring Ambassador Shyam Saran (Former Foreign Secretary & Senior Fellow, CPR); Dr C Raja Mohan (Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore); Ambassador Mohan Kumar [Chairperson, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS]); Suman Bery [Former Director-General, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER)]; and Yamini Aiyar (President and Chief Executive, CPR).
India has been engaged with the countries of East Asia through a range of platforms. On security issues the East Asian Summit dominates (which now includes Russia and the United States). On economic cooperation the central structure is ASEAN+6 (ASEAN's 10 members together with Japan, Korea, China, India, Australia), all of whom also participate in the East Asia Summit.
India withdrew last November from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, the signature project of ASEAN+6 . Even though Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Australia (all G20 members) are party to the negotiations, the Indian press has dubbed the agreement 'Chinese-led'. The other 15 members are yet to conclude the agreement.
Since then, Asia has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Concurrently India is among several countries in the region exposed to a more assertive security posture by China, leading to the tragic death of Indian soldiers at Chinese hands in Ladakh.
A recent report by a group of economists from ASEAN+6 countries argues that economic and medical cooperation across ASEAN+6 can lead the global recovery from the pandemic. China, India and Japan are three of the four largest economies in the G20 and may be able to make headway at a time when tensions between China and the US are high. There is also little doubt that the major ASEAN countries, as well as Japan and Australia, would welcome India's constructive engagement in such regional cooperation. Yet given its volatile security relationship with China and its own domestic economic and political preoccupations, India may wish to stay away, as it has with the RCEP.
This webinar assessed India's interests and options in regional economic engagement with other Asian powers in navigating a post-pandemic world.