The Indo-Pacific is an area of growing interest, providing nations in the region with avenues for trade, tourism, economic development, and the promotion of strategic interests. Taking advantage of the opportunities present in the region requires greater cooperation among countries in developing connectivity, infrastructure, and security in the area. While New Delhi and Tokyo have identified regional cooperation across the Indo-Pacific as a major objective of their bilateral partnership, cooperation with ASEAN remains at the heart of their Indo-Pacific approach. 

Carnegie India, in partnership with Pallavan Learning Systems, hosted a day-long seminar, which reviewed current regional economic and security cooperation among India, Japan, and ASEAN nations. The seminar brought together experts from the region to identify possible collaborations in maritime security and regional connectivity corridors in the Indo-Pacific.

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Future of the Indo-Pacific: Participants noted that the future of the Indo-Pacific region will be shaped by several major powers, including Japan, India, the United States, China, and ASEAN. They placed emphasis on forming partnerships among these players in order to create lasting stability and peace in the region. In particular, participants suggested that an India-Japan-ASEAN partnership could help improve regional connectivity and infrastructure, and address, both, traditional and non-traditional security concerns in the area. They stressed on the need to keep ASEAN central to all such efforts in order to ensure that no regional player is excluded. Participants proposed amalgamating pre-existing bilateral relations into trilateral and quadrilateral ones, in order to achieve a broader network of cooperation. 
  • Promoting Maritime Security Cooperation: Participants expressed the need to maintain a rules-based maritime order, ensuring freedom of navigation in the waters of the Indo-Pacific. They further stated that nations in the region need to cooperate to improve their maritime connectivity, local infrastructure, and the blue economy. The participants also highlighted the importance of developing technologies to address non-traditional security threats in the Indo-Pacific. They noted that a trilateral partnership among India, Japan, and ASEAN would expand the reach of India and Japan’s regional developmental initiatives—such as the Asia Africa Growth Corridor—while maintaining ASEAN centrality. 
  • Enhancing Regional Connectivity: Participants underlined the need for ASEAN states to work together to improve their infrastructure and remove barriers to free trade—thereby improving regional connectivity. They expressed the need for countries in the Indo-Pacific to undertake more bilateral and multilateral connectivity and infrastructure development projects. Projects associated with India’s Act East policy need to be encouraged, participants stated, as they can help integrate the region. They further explored the possibility of India and Japan jointly implementing development infrastructure initiatives—such as building ports, railways, or roads—in ASEAN countries.
  • Exploring Trilateral Cooperation: Participants noted the possibility of a trilateral partnership among India, Japan, and ASEAN. They begun by  suggesting that India and Japan could partner with ASEAN states to undertake connectivity, infrastructure, and capacity building projects. They reflected upon the benefits that ASEAN countries would obtain from such an arrangement, as India could  carry out projects at low costs, while Japan could provide cutting edge technologies to ensure their successful implementation. Participants, however, cautioned against implementing these plans without due diligence, as this could lead to projects being abandoned midway.
  • Looking Forward: Participants emphasized the need for all countries in the Indo-Pacific to work toward developing a common vision for the region. They explored the various avenues for cooperation that may aid this objective—such as space dialogues, technology and innovation summits, joint infrastructure projects, tourism, and economic corridors. Participants also underlined the advantages of a common development goal for the region, particularly in terms of providing socio-economic gains to countries. They further stated that, while a trilateral partnership among India, Japan, and ASEAN could provide a platform to achieve this, greater thought must also be given to finding ways to expand this partnership to include other countries in the Indo-Pacific.

This event summary was prepared by Nikhil Sahai, a research intern at Carnegie India.

AGENDA

10:00 to 10:30 a.m.

Registration and Welcome Tea

10:30 to 11:45 a.m.

Inaugural Session: India-Japan-ASEAN: Future of the Indo-Pacific

  • Kenji Hiramatsu, ambassador of Japan to India
  • Chutintorn Gongsakdi, ambassador of Thailand to India
  • Preeti Saran, former secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs, India
  • Moderator: Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at Carnegie India

11:45 to 12:45 p.m.

Promoting Maritime Security Cooperation in the Region

  • Lee YingHui, senior analyst for the maritime security program at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Jagannath P. Panda, research fellow and coordinator of the East Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses
  • Darshana M. Baruah, associate director and senior research analyst at Carnegie India
  • Moderator: Anil Chopra, member of the National Security Advisory Board of India

12:45 to 2:00 p.m.

Lunch

2:00 to 3:15 p.m.

Enhancing Regional Infrastructure and Connectivity

  • Kenichi Yokoyama, country director of the India Resident Mission at the Asian Development Bank
  • Surat Horachaikul, founding director of the Indian Studies Centre at Chulalongkorn University
  • Niruban Balachandran, program management for the Governance Global Practice at The World Bank
  • Titli Basu, associate fellow at the East Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses
  • Moderator: Shakti Sinha, director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

3:15 to 4:30 p.m.

Exploring Possible Trilateral Cooperation

  • Thuy T. Do, vice dean of the faculty of international politics and diplomacy at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
  • Rani D. Mullen, visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore
  • Sanjay Pulipaka, senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
  • Moderator: Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, distinguished fellow and head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation

4:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Concluding Remarks and Vote of Thanks

5:00 p.m.

Reception

SPEAKERS

Kenji Hiramatsu is the ambassador of Japan to India. 

Chutintorn Gongsakdi is the ambassador of Thailand to India.

Preeti Saran is former secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India.

Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at Carnegie India.

Lee YingHui is a senior analyst for the maritime security program at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Jagannath P. Panda is a research fellow and coordinator of the East Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.

Darshana M. Baruah is the associate director and senior research analyst at Carnegie India.

Anil Chopra is a member of the National Security Advisory Board of India.

Kenichi Yokoyama is the country director of the India Resident Mission at the Asian Development Bank.

Surat Horachaikul is the founding director of the Indian Studies Centre at Chulalongkorn University.

Niruban Balachandran is responsible for program management for the Governance Global Practice at The World Bank.

Titli Basu is an associate fellow at the East Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.

Shakti Sinha is the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

Thuy T. Do is the vice dean of the faculty of international politics and diplomacy at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

Rani D. Mullen is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

Sanjay Pulipaka is a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is a distinguished fellow and the head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.