ASEAN- Countries. Functions, ASEAN UPSC Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : November 4th, 2022

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian nations. It is a regional organization established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states. ASEAN was established on 8th August 1967; since then, 8th August has been observed as ASEAN Day. The founding members of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

To prepare for ASEAN for the UPSC Exams, one needs to cover all the relevant aspects of the topic, such as its history, member countries, objectives, significance, related organizations, and many more. Through this article on ASEAN, we will be shedding light on all the important topics that need to be covered for preparing effectively.

Table of Content

What is ASEAN?

ASEAN is the short form for the association of Southeast Asian nations. In order to establish a peaceful cultural and economic growth development of Southeast Asian territory, several authorities coming from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore founded the ASEAN in 1967. The ASEAN headquarters is situated in Jakarta, Indonesia.

  • It is an organization made to establish social and political stability amidst the rising clashes in the Asia Pacific Postcolonial States.
  • The working motto of ASEAN is ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community.
  • ASEAN greatly influences the Asia Pacific trading political and security-related matters.
  • The secretariat of ASEAN is situated in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.

ASEAN Members

The purpose of establishing such a group was to boost economic growth along with the social, cultural, and prosperous security and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations. Brunei, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, and Cambodia are the countries that joined ASEAN later. Following is the list of Members of ASEAN:


Year of Joining of ASEAN countries


Founding member

The Philippines

Founding member


Founding member


Founding member


Founding member











History of ASEAN

On 8 August 1967, five leaders, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand at Bangkok, Thailand signed a document. By virtue of that document, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) came into effect. The five Foreign Ministers who signed it – Adam Malik of Indonesia, Narciso R. Ramos of the Philippines, Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, S. Rajaratnam of Singapore, and Thanat Khoman of Thailand would subsequently be hailed as the Founding Fathers of probably the most successful inter-governmental organization in the developing world today.

  • The document, known as the ASEAN Declaration, declared the establishment of an Association for Regional Cooperation among the Countries of Southeast Asia to be known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and spelled out the aims and purposes of that Association.
  • The ASEAN Declaration stipulated that the Association would be open for participation by all States in the Southeast Asian region subscribing to its aims, principles, and purposes.
  • It proclaimed ASEAN as representing the collective will of the nations of Southeast Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom, and prosperity.

Ministerial Bodies of ASEAN

The previous name of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The ASEAN Charter established four important new Ministerial bodies to support the ASEAN Summit, viz.:

  • ASEAN Political-Security Community Council.
  • ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council.
  • ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC).
  • ASEAN Economic Community Council.

Composition of ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] was formed on 8 August 1967. The headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] is situated in Jakarta, Indonesia. Let's discuss the institutional mechanism of ASEAN for the upcoming IAS Exam


The chairmanship of the ASEAN countries keeps on rotating every year based on the alphabetic chronology of English names of the member countries. The ASEAN 2021 meeting was held in Brunie and 2022 was held in Cambodia.

Ministerial Council

The Ministerial Council involves four major and new bodies-

  1. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council
  2. ASEAN Economic Community Council
  3. ASEAN Political-Security Community Council
  4. ASEAN Coordinating Council

Decision Making

The decisions made at the summits among the members is purely consensual and based on consultations among the member countries of the group.

ASEAN Summit

ASEAN Summit is the supreme policy-making body. The ASEAN summit is the highest level of authority for policy and objectives within the region. In accordance with the charter, this ASEAN Summit is organized twice a year.


The ASEAN-X formula allows member states who are ready to participate to take the initiative; those who require additional time can apply for a flexible timeline if all members of the states agree to it.

Objectives of ASEAN

The prime objective of ASEAN is to induce the proactive engagement of the countries on the basis of cultural economic scientific administrative subjects. Other objectives of ASEAN include:

  • To maintain a strong bond and mutual relationship with the Global countries and territorial organizations.
  • To work together efficiently and enhance and increase the use of the agriculture industry, expand commerce and transportation and raise the quality of life of the citizens of the country.
  • To work in the favour of fostering regional harmony and security through adherence to maintaining proper rules and regulations and confirming its UN charter ideals.
  • ASEAN also assists member countries in the field of education, administration, and technical and professional domains.

Functions of ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations possesses the world's third-largest market, which is greater than the EU and North America combined. It is the world's sixth-largest economy and Asia's third-largest. The basic and fundamental principles of ASEAN include mutual respect for the sovereignty, equality, and national identity of all the countries. It focuses on:

  • Giving the right to every state for leading their countries without any external interference or subversions.
  • Settle down the disputes or differences among the countries in a peaceful and harmonious manner.
  • Suhas proper communication and cooperation among the participating and surrounding countries.

Significance of ASEAN

From the sight of a global marketplace, ASEAN is the biggest player even bigger than the European Union and North America together. Because of this much significance, ASEAN has become the world's 4th most common location for investment. ASEAN is the 3rd largest market in the world, the 6th largest economy in the world and 3rd in Asia. The share of ASEAN has increased from 2% to 7% from 1967 to 2016 in the World Export system. This shows that trading is significantly increasing in ASEAN’s financial possibilities.

Contributions of Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN]

The organization served as a forum for member countries to discuss disagreements ranging from economic to strategic and security issues. In 1996, India was admitted to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). The contributions of the ASEAN countries have been listed here-

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] has established regional and extra-regional multilateral venues to interact with its communication partner.
  • Among them is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership (APEC), and the Annual Ministerial Meeting (AMM).
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] has maintained strong relations with Asia's leading countries because of these multilateral endeavors.
  • It has grown in prominence in the area. It has influenced regional relations with major nations such as China, India, Japan, and the United States.
  • Beyond Southeast Asia, the contribution to regional peace, security, and prosperity extends throughout the whole Asia-Pacific area.
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also proclaimed itself a nuclear-weapons-free zone.

ASEAN Led Forums

China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand have all signed free-trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN].The important ASEAN-led forums include:

  • ASEAN Regional Forum- It is a twenty-seven-member multilateral grouping that was developed to facilitate cooperation on political and security issues to contribute to regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.
  • ASEAN Plus Three- ASEAN Plus Three was established in 1997. It is a consultative body that gathers along with the ten countries of ASEAN and China, Japan, and South Korea.
  • The East-Asia Summit- The Summit is generally and mostly addressed by big Nations like India, New Zealand, Russia, Australia, the US, etc. This summit works to enhance Regional Cooperation and development.

Main Points of Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN]

The principles of the Association of Southeast Asian nations include right to sovereignty, continuing national interests, and not interfering with others’ internal matters. Following are the principles of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN Notes):

  • Respect for the sovereignty, independence, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations
  • Right to pursue national interests without interference, subversion, or pressure from outside forces
  • Non-interference in one another's internal matters.
  • Peaceful resolution of conflicts or disputes.
  • Abstaining from the threat or use of force.
  • Effective collaboration among themselves.

India and ASEAN

India is not a permanent member of ASEAN although it often participates in the ASEAN lead forums like the Defence Forum and East-Asia Summit. Being a non-member of Asian India still emphasizes and acknowledges the significance of ASEAN to the Indo-Pacific occasionally.

India and ASEAN are natural partners in the desire to create free and inclusive regional architecture.

India's relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of her foreign policy and the foundation of Act East Policy. India and ASEAN already have 25 years of Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction, and 5 years of Strategic Partnership with ASEAN.

Economic Cooperation

ASEAN is India's fourth-largest trading partner. India and ASEAN share a trade worth approximately $ 24 billion, which is 10% of total Indian trading. In terms of the total exports, 11.28% goes to the ASEAN. Founded in 2003, the ASEAN India-Business Council is a unified forum for private-sector players from India and ASEAN countries.

Financial Assistance

India gains its Financial Assistance from different funds like-

  • ASEAN- India Green Funds
  • ASEAN- India Cooperation Fund
  • ASEAN- India S&T Development Fund


Networking activities Research and advocacy will be undertaken with the Indian and Asian organizations and their think tanks.


Keeping the Indo-Pacific growth and security vision in mind, India keeps ASEAN at the core of its political security Corporation.

Socio-Cultural Cooperation

India takes care of Socio-Cultural Cooperation and organizes various inter-national activities like boosting the interaction among the members, inviting the students of ASEAN countries to India, providing courses to the ASEAN diplomats, and interchanging the parliamentarians.

Delhi Declaration and Delhi Dialogue

The Delhi Declaration talks about the corporation in the Maritime Domain and is identified as one of ASEAN's India's key areas of Cooperation. The Delhi Dialogue is an annual track 1.5 event to discuss the issues like economic, political, and security between ASEAN and India.

Challenges to ASEAN

In 1992, India joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] as a sectoral dialogue partner. During the fifth ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in 1995, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] invited India to join the group as a full dialogue partner. The challenges associated with ASEAN are

  • Several regional imbalances exist among its individual markets in terms of economics and social conditions.
  • ASEAN member states have a mixed record of income inequality and a huge gap between the economically sound and poor States.
  • The underdeveloped countries faced resource constraints and were unable to implement many regional commitments in their national plans.
  • The communist and authoritarian states are equally represented on this platform along with the democracies in the world.
  • Among all the rifts in the organization, the South China Sea is the most destabilizing factor.
  • Human rights have been a contentious issue within ASEAN. For instance, the crackdown against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
  • ASEAN faces difficulty in negotiating a unified response to China's maritime claims in the South China Sea.
  • It has the disadvantage of awarding difficult problems rather than facing them. They focus more on consensus which is sometimes a major drawback.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] is an organization made up of 10 Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASEAN is important from the UPSC Exam perspective. The article covers all the basic and essential details about ASEAN.


The ASEAN is an organization in the UPSC syllabus of International Relations and Current Affairs. ASEAN is an important topic from the perspective of the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. UPSC Aspirants who are going to appear for the UPSC Exam should practice the previous year’s question papers to understand the exam pattern and get an idea about the types of questions asked in the exam.

ASEAN UPSC Sample Question

It is highly recommended to the candidates solve the questions on the basis of their knowledge of the particular topic. The candidates can solve the below-mentioned questions to get a deeper understanding of the core concepts. Proper practice and a methodical preparation strategy will lead the candidates in acknowledging and delving into the concepts of the exam.

Question: Taking reference to the ASEAN Association of South Asian Nations considered the following statements:

  1. It is an official United States Observer
  2. India is not a member of ASEAN

Which of the statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1&2 both
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: Option 2

Question: Which of the following statement is NOT correct about the ASEAN members?

  1. Indonesia has the highest population among ASEAN members.
  2. Singapore has the highest Per Capita GDP among the ASEAN members.
  3. Cambodia has the lowest nominal GDP among the ASEAN members.
  4. Brunei has the lowest population among the ASEAN members.

Answer: Option 3

Other Important UPSC Notes
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Directive Principles of State Policy UPSC NotesCompetition Commission of India UPSC Notes
Montreal Protocol UPSC NotesVivad Se Vishwas Scheme UPSC Notes
Electoral Bonds UPSC NotesUnlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 1967 UPSC Notes


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FAQs on ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]

  • The originating members of ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the ASEAN declaration which is also known as the Bangkok declaration in 1967. The ASEAN Secretariat is situated in Indonesia, Jakarta.

  • ASEAN is the union of 10 states of SouthEast Asia- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam that facilitates economic, political, differences, educational, and security-related cooperation and integration among the members and in countries of Asia Pacific.

    The ASEAN charter came on December 15 2008 which to date serves as a Foundation to achieve community by providing the institutional framework and legal status for ASEAN.

  • The founding date of ASEAN is the observation date which is August 8. ASEAN will celebrate its 55th ASEAN day on 8 August 2022. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Declaration was signed by the founding members (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) of the organization on 8 August 1967.

  • No India is not an active or founding member of ASEAN but it participates in the ASEAN lead platform like East Asia summits and ASEAN Defence Forum. The founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] preserved its motto as "One Vision, One Identity, One Community".

  • ASEAN is a regional organisation that was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states. The candidates must download the ASEAN UPSC notes to prepare for the exam comprehensively.

  • The function of ASEAN is to provide the right to every state to lead their countries without any interference. They can mitigate disputes or differences among countries in a peaceful manner. Spreading proper communication among the surrounding countries.

  • The headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. At present, Lim Jock Hoi is the elected Secretary-General. The chairman of the ASEAN countries alternates on a chronological basis.

  • The challenges associated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] are such as existing imbalances and mixed data on the income inequality gap in wages. The underdeveloped countries lack resources and cannot implement the commitments. Human rights are also a concern and issue with the ASEAN countries.

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