Russia moved to forge stronger ties with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mid-May, pledging to focus on economy rather than geopolitical alliances. Local observers preferred to highlight geopolitical aspects of the rapprochement between Russia and Southeast Asia. Russian media outlets, including Sputnik International, noted that Russia looked to the East, seeking new allies among US partners in Asia. However, ASEAN top officials remained reluctant to concede that the Sochi summit had a geopolitical dimension. Lao leader Thongloun Sisoulith told a press briefing after the meeting that no western pressure was applied to discourage ASEAN leaders from attending the meeting.
- Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia Seek free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union (Sputnik, 19 May 2016)
- EEU to Consider Creation of Free trade Zone with Singapore – Putin (Sputnik, 19 May 2016)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed an agreement with Tehran on 23 May for a transport corridor designed to open up a new route to Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar, circumventing Pakistan.
Chabahar port, which India will partially develop just across the border from Pakistan’s, is the centerpiece of the corridor. India and Iran also signed an agreement in Tehran that allows New Delhi to begin work on Chabahar after a delay of more than a decade. Mr. Modi said the deal could “alter the course of history of this region” and help India, Afghanistan and Iran “to eventually build what we all desire and deserve—a friendly and healthy neighbourhood.”