Regional groupings involving India or affecting India’s interests

Regional groupings are formed to pursue common goals in a collective and cooperative manner, such as economic development, trade, political stability, etc. Some regional groupings have been very successful in achieving their goal, such as the ASEAN, that has enabled southeast asian nations to effectively deal with the rest of the world as a bloc, while some regional groupings are just on paper and yet to be fructified.

India, being a large developing country, is bound to be affected by every significant regional grouping across the world. Here are the most prominent of such organisations:

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – SAARC

Headquarters: Kathmandu, Nepal.

SAARC is the regional intergovernmental organisation of nations in South Asia, created for regional integration. It was founded in 1985 in Dhaka. It launched the South Asia Free Trade Area in 2006. But the organisation is stifled in its functioning due to rivalry between India and Pakistan, and is far from achieving its goal of creating a geopolitical union in South Asia.

SAARC has eight member states: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives. It also has another eight observer states, one of them is Myanmar, that is interested in full membership.

SAARC Members. shutterstock.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – SCO

Headquarters: Beijing, China.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is primarily a political and security organisation created in 2001 in Shanghai, China. Its origin lies in its predecessor Shanghai Five Group which was based on the 1996 Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions.

SCO expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined it as full members in 2017.
Members (8) – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan.
Observer states (4)- Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Mongolia.

SCO members. wikipedia.

SCO is a China and Russia led organisation. The official working languages of the SCO are Chinese and Russian. SCO has a permanent anti-terrorism organ called Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which serves to promote cooperation among member countries against the three evils (as China refers to them) of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN

Headquarters: Jakarta, Indonesia.

Founded in 1967, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a prominent and influential regional intergovernmental organisation comprising ten countries, which promotes cooperation in economic, political, security and socio-cultural spheres. Its member states are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

ASEAN Members.

BIMSTEC – Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation

Secretariat: Dhaka, Bangladesh

BIMSTEC is an international organisation of seven countries located in the Bay of Bengal region – India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand. A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation.

BIMSTEC members. DrishtiIAS.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – RCEP

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 states of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the 6 countries with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India.
According to government sources, a broad agreement on this is likely to be reached in 2019, and it is expected to provide market access for India’s goods and exports and encourage greater investments in India while also facilitating India’s small businesses (MSMEs) to integrate into regional value and supply chains. But, India is wary about the presence of China in this agreement, as it fears an increase in the already huge trade deficit with China.

16 RCEP members. wikipedia.

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – CPTPP

CPTPP is the third largest free trade area in the world after the North American Free Trade Agreement and European Single Market. It has 11 members, the most prominent among them being Japan and Australia. Formerly called TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), it is now called TPP11 or CPTPP after the United States withdrew from the proposed 12 member agreement.
Since, this agreement does not involve the US and China, it gives Japan an advantage in future trade negotiations with them.

CPTPP members in orange.

While the RCEP is about China extending its influence over the rest of the region, the CPTPP is about Japan trying to regain some of its lost influence vis-a-vis China.

Mekong-Ganga Cooperation – MGC

MGC is an organisation for promoting cooperation in four sectors: tourism, culture, education and transport, between the countries through which rivers Mekong and Ganga flows.
It was established on the initiative of India’s Look East Policy. Its 6 member countries are: India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam.

MGC members. Frontline.

Indian Ocean Rim Association – IORA

Headquarters: Ebene, Mauritius.

IORA is a regional forum for cooperation of government, business, and academia of the countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

Members: South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, Oman, UAE, Iran, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia.

IORA Members.

East Asia Summit

East Asia Summit (EAS) is a regional forum held annually by the leaders of 18 countries: ASEAN plus Six, and the USA and Russia.

EAS Members. wikipedia.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation – APEC

Headquarters: Singapore

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an intergovernmental forum for 21 countries of the Pacific rim, that promotes free trade throughout Asia-Pacific region.

APEC Members.

Also see- (links will be posted soon)
Eurasian Organisations
European Union
African Union
North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement
Arab League
Gulf Cooperation Council

More International groupings and regional organisations:

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium – IONS

IONS is a biennial forum, and a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.


Milan is a forum of Indian Ocean Region navies, organised biennially at Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Indian Navy.

Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)

It is the trans-national region of the Mekong river basin – including countries (6)- Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China.

Arctic Council

  • An intergovernmental forum to address issues of Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region – sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • Established by the Ottawa Declaration 1996.
  • Members (8) – Unites States, Canada, 5 Nordic countries {Iceland, Denmark (also representing Greenland, Faroe Islands), Norway, Sweden, Finland}, Russia
  • 2018: China has unveiled its vision of “Polar Silk Road”. Both China and India are observers in Arctic Council.

Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) is a Tokyo based broad union of 20 Asian countries formed in 1961 to promote socioeconomic development among its members.

Colombo Plan is a regional organisation that embodies the concept of collective intergovernmental effort to strengthen economic and social development of members in the Asia-Pacific region. It focuses on human resource development.

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