ASEAN – Countries, Headquarters, Countries, ASEAN UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

ASEAN is the acronym used for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is an organization that was formed as a group of Asian countries which are Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. The ASEAN was formed in 1967 with the objectives of promoting economic and cultural development, security, peace, and societal progress in Southeast Asia.

Since the inception of the ASEAN organization, 5 more countries joined the group and the present number of ASEAN member countries has increased to 10. The new countries that joined are Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Myanmar (1997), Lao PDR (1997), and Cambodia (1999).

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:

Members Year of Joining of ASEAN countries
Thailand Founding member
The Philippines Founding member
Malaysia Founding member
Singapore Founding member
Indonesia Founding member
Brunei 1985
Vietnam 1995
Lao PDR 1997
Myanmar 1997
Cambodia 1999

History of Association of South East Asian Countries

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed on the 8th of August in 1967. A Bangkok Declaration was signed in Bangkok, Thailand on this day by the founding members namely Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Before ASEAN was formed, there was another existing organization by the name of the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) with Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand as members.

  • The first ASEAN Summit was held in Bali in 1976 followed by the first ASEAN-European Economic Community meeting in 1978 which was held in Brussels, Belgium. In 1993, ASEAN set up an ASEAN Regional Forum.
  • During this time, between 1984 and 1999, 5 more countries joined the group.
  • Apart from these permanent members, there are two more countries that act as observers which are Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea.

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 instituted 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 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 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, 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 significance, it has become the world’s 4th most common location for investment. It 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 Cooperation (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

There are three forums that are led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. These are the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Plus Three, and the East Asia Summit (EAS). All three forums were formed with the purpose of achieving the core objectives of the ASEAN.

  • The ASEAN Regional Forum was formed in 1993. It consists of 27 members and was set up with the purpose of providing cooperation on matters related to politics and security.
  • The ASEAN Plus Three forum was formulated in 1997. It was intended to be a group that provides guidance and holds discussions and consultations for the other member countries. It is a group of all the 10 ASEAN countries.
  • The EAST Asia Summit (EAS) was conducted for the first time in 2005. It has recorded attendance by all the ASEAN countries’ heads of state along with others such as India, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea, the US, China, and Australia.

Main Points of Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN]

The principles of the Association of Southeast Asian nations include the right to sovereignty, continuing national interests, and not interfering with others’ internal matters. The 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

ASEAN holds great importance for India. The relationship of India with ASEAN has seen gradual development and it has been a key foundation for our foreign policy. India is not a permanent member of the ASEAN but joined as a dialogue partner in 1996. It is part of the ASEAN Plus Six group,

India commenced its relationship with ASEAN in 1992 by launching its Look East Policy and becoming a sectoral dialogue partner. India became a summit-level partner of ASEAN in 2002. The relationship between both touched new heights with the launching of the ‘Act-East Policy’ in 2014. It is extremely important for India to maintain good relations with ASEAN to battle terrorism, reverse the insurgency happening in the Northeast region, etc.

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. While the fifth ASEAN Summit was held in Bangkok in 1995, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] sent an invitation to 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  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 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 Sample Questions

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? [A] 1 only,  [B] 2 only, [C] 1 and 2 both, [D] Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: Option B (2 Only) India is not a member of ASEAN.

Question: Which of the following statement is NOT correct about the ASEAN members? [A] Indonesia has the highest population among ASEAN members. [B] Singapore has the highest Per Capita GDP among the ASEAN members. [C] Cambodia has the lowest nominal GDP among the ASEAN members. [D] Brunei has the lowest population among the ASEAN members.

Answer: (Option C) Cambodia has the lowest nominal GDP among the ASEAN members.

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