New Delhi: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the ten members of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is on a three-day tour to Thailand didn’t even mention it in the opening remarks at a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders which has perplexed other leaders, reported Reuters.

As China is backing the RCEP deal, India is worried about a potential flood of Chinese imports. According to reports, India has placed some new demands which may prove to be a roadblock to the materialisation of the deal.

RCEP will be the world’s largest economic bloc, covering nearly half of the global economy. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had slammed the BJP government’s decision to join the bloc as it would harm farmers and small traders. India, it seems, is in two minds about joining the bloc.

So will RCEP deal be signed without India?

Some countries have raised the possibility of moving ahead without India on forming a bloc that also included Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, reported Reuters.

The ASEAN countries, however, want India to be in the deal as India’s presence will curtail China’s domination. China’s premier, Li Keqiang, met ASEAN leaders on Sunday and said China was ready to work with countries in the region for long term peace and stability in the South China Sea, where neighbours reject Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims.

“Most market access negotiations have been completed and the few outstanding bilateral issues will be resolved by Feb 2020,” said a draft agreement obtained by AFP.

(With Agency Inputs)