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Vikas Rathod What are the major flaws in India’s Look East Policy and how it is affected by the China factor?

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  • R.N. Das replies: There is no flaw in India’s ‘look east’ policy enunciated in the early 1990s. India has historical, cultural and political relationship with the countries of the region. India’s ‘look east’ policy only rejuvenated and rejigged its engagement with the countries of South-East Asia. While historically India had supported the yearning for freedom in Indonesia and Vietnam, India played an important role in the Geneva Conference of 1954 that attempted to bring peaceful solution to Indo-China imbroglio.

    India became a Sectoral Dialogue Partner with the ASEAN in 1992 and full Dialogue Partner in 1996. Since 2001, India has also been engaging with the grouping at the ASEAN summit level. Yet another aspect of India’s engagement with the East Asia is through the platform of East Asia Summit since 2005. India has also been participating in the ASEAN Defence Minister’s Meeting or ADMM plus. At the level of economic engagement, India has signed the Free Trade Agreement with the 10 member ASEAN countries which will help increase trade between India and the ASEAN countries to $70 billion in the year 2012. Thus, India’s ‘look east’ policy has been quite a success in its engagement with countries of the region.

    India’s ‘look east’ policy is an important aspect of strategic autonomy in its independent foreign policy and as such India has always avoided any attempt to contain China. This position has been reiterated by India time and again. Far from containing China, for which India has neither the inclination nor the capability, India has always supported any attempt to make China a responsible stake holder in any architecture for ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. India was one of the leading countries to have pleaded for the admission of China in the United Nations and the Security Council as early as 1950 during the height of the Korean War. Although some section of Chinese media at times have been critical of India’s ‘look east’ policy, there is an overwhelming view in China that India is too important and strong a country to be motivated by any power to contain China. With regard to ONGC Videsh’s foray into South China Sea, India has clearly conveyed that such activities by Indian companies is purely commercial in nature and that sovereignty issues must be resolved peacefully by the countries which are parties to the dispute in accordance with international law and practice.