ASEAN’s senior defence officials are planning to hold an ASEAN-India maritime naval exercise to enhance security between the bloc’s member states and the South Asian country and promote solidarity with one another.

The decision was made at the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM) on May 17, chaired by Nem Sowath – head of the General Department of Policy and Foreign Affairs under the Cambodian Ministry of National Defence.

Held at the ministry headquarters in Phnom Penh, the meeting discussed key documents for the 2022 ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting (ADMM) to be organised and hosted by Cambodia in June with the theme “Solidarity for Harmonious Security”.

“ADSOM decided to agree to the request for ASEAN-India maritime naval exercises to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations. The detailed preparations were handed over to the working group for further discussions,” stated a press release issued by the General Department on May 17.

“The meeting ended with good results in-line with the direction of promoting solidarity among ASEAN member countries to provide harmonious security.”

Participants at the ADSOM meeting reviewed three reports: the minutes of the ADSOM working group’s meeting, the report on the 15th Annual Meeting of the ASEAN Defence and Security Institutions (15 NADI) and the report on the 19th ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Forces’ Meeting (ACDFM-19).

The ASEAN defence ministers were briefed on the progress of the existing ASEAN defence cooperation agreements made by the bloc’s member states and they decided on seven key documents to be submitted to the ADMM for approval in June.

The seven documents include the draft concept document on enhancing ASEAN-US military cooperation, the promotion of mechanisms in support of ASEAN women peacekeepers and a planning document on the establishment of cooperation between ASEAN military educational institutions, among others.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said the military exercises held between ASEAN and India show a possible new direction and next step for ASEAN to take in order to marshal its strength to build a credible collective defence against outside aggressors.

He said it also reflects ASEAN’s good relations with most countries nearby, including India.

“This is a suitable time to strengthen ASEAN’s defence cooperation, but I think it is likely that ASEAN’s forces cannot be united with each other to fight against external enemies at this point, because ASEAN member states have different tendencies towards the superpowers and there is no single unified view thus far,” he said.