Dialogue mechanisms are central part of ASEAN’s institutional ecosystem. This chapter analyses the evolution, functions, and features of these mechanisms, unpacking how they serve as the indispensable platforms for ASEAN’s engagement with the major powers and key partners in and out of Asia. We argue that ASEAN’s multi-layered dialogue mechanisms are a sine qua non for Southeast Asian states’ collective quest for ASEAN centrality. This is pursued chiefly through an ongoing process of “group hedging”, which involves three institutional roles, i.e., binding, buffering, and building. These roles are driven and sustained by several interrelated dynamics: shared vulnerabilities among ASEAN member states, converging outlooks between ASEAN countries and their partners at the critical junctures of the 1970s and 1990s, as well as benefits from the expanded circles of ASEAN-plus cooperation since the 2000s.
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