All about ASEAN


  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II
  • International organisations, ASEAN


  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (more commonly known as ASEAN) is an intergovernmental organization aimed primarily at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its members.
  • It strives to promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.


  • There are currently 10 member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.


  • ASEAN was created in 1967. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand- these 5 countries were the founding members.
  • Association of Southeast Asia(ASA), formed in 1961, was the predecessor of ASEAN.
  • There was a common fear of Communism during the cold war era. This motivated the foundation of ASEAN.
  • Brunei became ASEAN’s sixth member in 1984
  • Vietnam joined as the seventh member in 1995.
  • Laos and Myanmar joined in 1997.
  • Cambodia joined in 1999.

What are the fundamental principles of ASEAN?

  • 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; and
  • Effective cooperation among themselves.

What is ASEAN charter?

  • The charter, signed by ASEAN members in 2007, in Jakarta, turned ASEAN into a legal entity
  • It aimed to create a single free-trade area for the region encompassing 500 million people.

What is the ASEAN way?

  • The ‘ASEAN Way’ is defined as an approach to solve the regional and global issues as per the cultural norms of Southeast Asia.
  • It is a working process or style that is informal and personal.
  • It prioritizes a consensus-based, non-conflictual way of addressing problems.
  • Quiet diplomacy allows ASEAN leaders to communicate without bringing the discussions into the public view.
  • Members avoid embarrassment that may lead to further conflict.

What is ASEAN Plus Three (APT)?

  • ASEAN plus three = ASEAN members + China + Japan + South Korea
  • During the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, ASEAN closely cooperated with China, South Korea, and Japan.
  • APT gave solution to the Asian Financial crisis through its Chiang Mai Initiative.
  • The Asian Currency Unit (ACU) is a proposed weighted index of currencies for ASEAN+3.
  • The ACU (as proposed) is a currency basket and not a real currency, i.e., a weighted index of East Asian currencies that will function as a benchmark for regional currency movements
  • The Asian Currency Unit’s purpose is to help stabilise the region’s financial markets.
  • Apart from financial cooperation, the other fields of cooperation include: food and energy security, trade facilitation, disaster management, people-to-people contacts, narrowing the development gap, rural development and poverty alleviation, human trafficking, labour movement, communicable diseases, environment and sustainable development, and transnational crime, including counter-terrorism.

What is Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI)?

  • The Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) is a multilateral currency swap arrangementamong the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong), Japan, and South Korea.
  • The initiative began as a series of bilateral swap arrangements after the ASEAN Plus Three countries met on 6 May 2000 in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at an annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
  • After 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, member countries started this initiative to manage regional short-term liquidity problems and to avoid relying on the International Monetary Fund
  • This led to financial stability in Asia.
  • The Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI), has two component = an expanded ASEAN Swap Arrangement (ASA) + a network of bilateral swap arrangements among ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea.

What is East Asia Summit?

  • The East Asia Summit (EAS) = ASEAN plus three + India + Australia + New Zealand
  • The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005
  • These 16 countries membership was expanded to 18 with the inclusion of Russia and USA in 2011.
  • EAS meetings are held after the annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings, and plays an important role in the regional architecture of Asia-Pacific.

Roadmap to Economic Integration in ASEAN

  • The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) aims to “implement economic integration initiatives” to create a single market across ASEAN member states.
  • The blueprint for establishment of economic community was adopted in 2007, during the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore.
  • The areas of co-operation include human resources development; recognition of professional qualifications; closer consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing; and enhancing private sector involvement.
  • Through the free movement of skilled labour, goods, services and investment, ASEAN will rise globally as one market with each member gaining from each other’s strengths, thus increasing its competitiveness and opportunities for development.


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