What Is ASEAN?

what is asean

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN is a 10-member political union from the South-East Asian region. The purpose of this institution is to promote economic and intergovernmental cooperation among its members. Several countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia have joined ASEAN. Below is a short overview of the organization. Identify its key goals and objectives. What’s more, you can read up on its background and how it came to be.

In its early years, ASEAN countries were loosely held together, but the dynamic economic growth of the 1970s gave it new cohesion. As a result, ASEAN responded unified to the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam in 1979. In 1976, its members met in Bali, Indonesia, to launch the organization’s first summit. The leaders forged several agreements and the Declaration of Concord and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation were signed.

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What Is ASEAN?

The political and economic union of ten Southeast Asian countries is known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. It fosters intergovernmental cooperation and mutual assistance that makes it easier for its members and other nations in the Asia-Pacific to integrate economically, politically, militarily, educationally, and socioculturally.

Genesis Of ASEAN

  1. The founding fathers of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. These countries signed the Bangkok Declaration (also known as the ASEAN Declaration) on August 8, 1967, in Bangkok, Thailand. This new union was a successor to the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), which included the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia.
  2. In succeeding years, five more countries joined the institution, bringing the total number of members to 10 at present.
  3. 1995 – Members agreed and a deal was signed to make Southeast Asia a nuclear weapons-free region.
  4. 1997 – ASEAN Vision 2020 was adopted.
  5. 2003 – To create an ASEAN Community, Bali Concord II was implemented.
  6. 2007 – The Cebu Declaration came. Inducing acceleration of the  ASEAN community’s establishment by 2015 was its main aim.
  7. 2008 – The ASEAN Charter enters into force with an agreement that was legally binding. Hence it was now made a legal entity.
  8. 2015 – ASEAN Community‘s debut.
    • The three pillars that make up the ASEAN Community:
      • ASEAN Political-Security Community
      • ASEAN Economic Community
      • ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

Member Nations

There are 10 member countries of ASEAN. Name of these countries are tabulated below.

State Capital Is This Nation A Founding Member  Accession
23px flag of thailand.svg Thailand  Bangkok Yes August 8, 1967
23px flag of malaysia.svg Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Yes August 8, 1967
23px flag of singapore.svg Singapore Singapore Yes August 8, 1967
23px flag of indonesia.svg Indonesia Jakarta Yes August 8, 1967
23px flag of the philippines.svg Philippines Manila Yes August 8, 1967
23px flag of brunei.svg Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan No January 7, 1984
23px flag of vietnam.svg Vietnam Hanoi No July 28, 1995
23px flag of myanmar.svg Myanmar Naypyidaw No July 23, 1997
23px flag of laos.svg Lao PDR Vientiane No July 23, 1997
23px flag of cambodia.svg Cambodia Phnom Penh No April 30, 1999
ASEAN Member Countries

The two states that are actively seeking ASEAN membership are Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

All About ASEAN

1. Headquarter Of ASEAN

The ASEAN headquarters are in Jakarta, Indonesia.

2. Motto Of ASEAN

“One Vision, One Identity, One Community”


The ASEAN flag’s ten rice stalks symbolize the ten Southeast Asian countries united in solidarity.

4. Secretary-General

Secretary General of ASEAN: Dato Lim Jock Hoi

5. Official Languages And Working Language

  1. Official Languages: Contracting states’ official languages are Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai, and Vietnamese.
  2. Working Language: English

ASEAN Objectives

  1. The key objective of ASEAN was to speed economic growth and, as a result, social advancement and cultural development.
  2. Promoting peace and security in the region based on the rule of law and the United Nations charter.
  3. Encouragement of collaborating actively and mutually assisting other members on common interest matters like social, cultural, technical, economic, scientific, and administrative fields.
  4. Effective collaboration for efficient utilization of industries and agriculture, trade expansion, improving facilities like trade transport and communications, and raising the living standards in member countries.
  5. Active promotion of Southeast Asian studies.
  6. Cooperating with international and regional organizations for mutual benefits.

As ASEAN consists of some of the world’s fastest-rising economies, ASEAN’s ambitions have grown beyond the economic and social sectors.

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ASEAN: Core Values

The essential values of ASEAN, as outlined in the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) are given below:

  1. Mutual respect for all nations’ independence, sovereignty, equality, geographical integrity, and national identity;
  2. Non-interference in one another’s domestic matters;
  3. Every state has the right to conduct its internal affairs without intervention from outside forces or coercion;
  4. Abandoning the use of force or threats of using it;
  5. Peaceful resolution of problems or disputes;
  6. Effective collaboration with one another.

Mechanism Of The Institution

  1. ASEAN’s chairmanship is rotated annually based on the alphabetical sequence of Member States’ English names.
  2. ASEAN Summit: ASEAN’s highest policy-making body. It is the highest level of authority in ASEAN terms and sets the direction for policies and objectives. The Summit is required under the Charter to meet twice a year.
  3. Ministerial Councils Of ASEAN: The Summit was supported by four significant new Ministerial entities established by the Charter.
    a. ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC)
    b. ASEAN Political-Security Community Council
    c. ASEAN Economic Community Council
    d. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council
  4. Making A Decision: In ASEAN, consultation and consensus are the primary mechanisms of decision-making.

However, the ASEAN-x Concept is enshrined in the Charter, which provides that if there is an agreement between all member states, A method for adaptive involvement might be used so that the ready members may proceed, while members that require more time for implementation may use a flexible timeframe.

ASEAN Regional Forum

  1. ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): Launched in 1993, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is a multilateral organization with 27 members that was created to improve collaboration on political and security concerns and to advance preventative diplomacy and regional confidence-building.
  2. ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN+3): The consultative group, founded in 1997, includes ten member nations, as well as China, Japan, and South Korea.
  3. EAS (East Asia Summit): The summit, which was first convened in 2005, aims to promote regional security and prosperity. Heads of Member nations, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States generally attend this summit. The setting of the agenda is a core feature of ASEAN.

Related Article: Act East Policy

Strengths & Opportunities

The biggest strength of ASEAN is that it, collectively, holds a significant influence that its members did or could have achieved individually. Collectively it consists of the third largest population in the world and the number of people below thirty is more than 50% of that population.

Economically, ASEAN is the world’s third-largest market. It is larger than the European Union and North American markets. Collectively the member nations form the world’s sixth largest economy and are placed third in Asia.

ASEAN has good economic integrations and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and China. Globally the fourth most popular investment destination. Its global export share has risen 7 percent in 2016. It is a huge leap from the 2 percent in 1967. Initiatives like ASEAN Single Aviation Market and Open Skies policies helped it to achieve greater transport and connectivity potential.

Building conventions and creating a neutral atmosphere to handle common concerns have substantially helped create regional stability.


There are many challenges that ASEAN faced in its smooth operation and that it strives to overcome.

Numerous regional imbalances are seen in the economics and social status of various individual markets of member states. A substantial gap is there between the rich and poor member nations. Many less developed members are not able to implement regional commitments due to resource constraints because of this.

Government systems in member nations are diverse. Some are democracies, and others are communists or authoritarian states.

Inability to reach an agreement with China, particularly in response to its extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea. This issue also exposes the institution’s rifts.

The institution seems divided on major Human Rights issues like the anti-Rohingya crackdowns in Myanmar. Many Human Rights Organizations criticized ASEAN for its stand. The reliance on the agreement may be a significant disadvantage at times, as many challenging problems are ignored rather than faced and solved. A key concern is the lack of a centralized method to ensure compliance, as well as an ineffective dispute resolution system.

ASEAN And India

  1. The relationship between India and ASEAN is crucial for India’s foreign policy and it forms the foundation of the Act East Policy.
  2. Separate missions to ASEAN and the EAS are maintained by India in Jakarta.
  3. For 25 years, India and ASEAN have maintained a dialogue partnership, a summit-level interaction is being sustained for 15 years, and a strategic partnership is going on for 5 years.
  4. Economic Cooperation: India’s fourth largest trading partner in ASEAN.
    India’s trade with ASEAN accounts for approximately 10.6 percent of the total Indian trade.
    • India’s exports to ASEAN, as a single market, accounting for 11.28 percent of total exports. The ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement is in place.
    • The ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was founded in 2003 with the goal of formulating a single platform to bring India and ASEAN’s key private sector players together.
  5. Socio-Cultural Cooperation: Community interaction enhancement programs with ASEAN, such as Special Training Course for ASEAN Diplomats, Student’s and Parliamentarian Exchange, and so on.
  6. Funds: ASEAN Countries are aided with the following funds:
    • ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund
    • ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund
    • ASEAN-India Green Fund
  7. The Delhi Declaration identifies maritime cooperation as an area of key cooperation under the ASEAN-India strategic partnership.
  8. An annual Track 1.5 event, the Delhi Dialogue, brings ASEAN and India together to discuss political, security, and economic issues.
  9. ASEAN-India Centre (AIC): To conduct policy research, advocacy, and networking activities with Indian and ASEAN organizations and think tanks.
  10. Political Security Cooperation: India prioritizes ASEAN in its Indo-Pacific vision of regional security and growth.


With many challenges at hand, ASEAN is progressively working in the right direction to build strategic relationships and partnerships. These strategic moves are already giving fruits with trades and relationships getting stronger with time. It needs to engage in more intra-ASEAN trade to be a strong economic region. The institution has a long way to go and achieve uniformity of ideas and thoughts among its member nations. It should work progressively on reducing the economic gap that different economies of member nations have with collective action in areas like the economy, human development, and sustainable development while also ensuring social progress.


Q1. Is India A Member Of ASEAN?

In 1992, India became an ASEAN sectoral dialogue partner. India also joined the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996. Since 2002, India and ASEAN have held yearly summit discussions at the highest level. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed between India and the ASEAN nations in Thailand in August 2009.

Q2. What Is The Full Form Of ASEAN?

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Q3. When Was ASEAN Established?

It was founded on August 8, 1967, in Bangkok, by the five initial member countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.

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