Act East Policy

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  • India's approach to Asia Pacific

    India's approach to Asia Pacific

    This policy brief discusses some of the key trends in the Asia Pacific and sets out a long-term approach for India so as to maximise its security and developmental opportunities.

    September 19, 2013

    Shubhendra Mishra asked: What is the strategic significance of India’s Look East Policy? Is it to counter China’s ‘string of pearls’ network?

    Rup Narayan Das replies: India’s Look East Policy was unveiled in early 1990s before the concept of ‘string of pearls’ gained currency. In fact, India’s Look East Policy is a resurrection and rejuvenation of India’s traditional, cultural, historical and political ties with the countries in the South East Asian region. India’s deep cultural interaction is particularly evident in Bali in Indonesia and the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. There is also an Indonesian version of Ramayana. In modern times, India extended moral and political support to the liberation struggles in Vietnam and Indonesia. India played a key role in the Geneva Conference of 1954, which brought peace to the Indo-China region after the French withdrawal. Similarly, India played an important role in the Indonesian fight against the Dutch imperialism. Thus, India’s engagement in the region has its own imperatives.

    When India’s Look East Policy was unveiled in early 1990s, it also coincided with India’s economic reforms and liberalisation, and as such, the policy has much to do with India’s economic engagement with the region rather than to counter the ‘string of pearls’ strategy attributed to China. The ‘string of pearls’ strategy refers to China’s building of ports in Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar. China has claimed that these ports have commercial purposes, but these ports have security and strategic implications for India. India has taken cognisance of such future possibilities and has deepened its comprehensive engagement with the countries of the region, particularly Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

    The import of India’s strategic engagement with the region can be understood from a statement by India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, made during a discussion at Carnegie Endowment in September 2010, when he stated: “We have global interest, the Chinese have global interest, all of us do. And all the major powers, as I said, are not only interdependent on each other, but also are dealing with each other across a whole range of issues, none of which recognise some artificial geographical construct like South Asia or East Asia. These are interlocking circles of security and prosperity, whichever way you look at it.”

    Akash Pratap asked: What is the role of Myanmar in India’s “Look East Policy”?

    Reply: Refer to an earlier reply by Udai Bhanu Singh on a similar query, at http://idsa.in/askanexpert/importanceofMyanmarforIndia.

    Also, refer to following publications by the IDSA faculty:

    Myanmar’s Critical Role in Bolstering India’s Look East Policy
    Arvind Gupta, February 2, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/idsacomments/MyanmarsCriticalRoleinBolsteringIndiasLookEastPolicy_agupta_020212

    An Assessment of Manmohan Singh’s Visit to Myanmar
    Udai Bhanu Singh, IDSA Issue Brief, June 1, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/issuebrief/AnAssessmentofManmohanSinghsVisittoMyanmar

    The Significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations
    Shristi Pukhrem, July 6, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/idsacomments/TheSignificanceofConnectivityinIndiaMyanmarRelations_spukhrem_230512

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape
    Bilveer Singh, IDSA Monograph Series No. 4, 2011, at http://idsa.in/monograph/SoutheastAsiaIndiaDefenceRelationsintheChangingRegionalSecurityLandscape

    Two Decades of India's Look East Policy: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity by Amar Nath Ram (ed.)

    Two Decades of India's Look East Policy edited by Amar Nath Ram is a compilationof scholarly contributions by 12 former ambassadors, an eminent academic-diplomat, a maritime strategy expert and a journalist. As a diplomat who was, as it were, present at the creation, Ram is eminently qualified to comment on how the Look East policy (LEP) has evolved since it was formulated.

    January 2013

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

    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.

    The Significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations

    With better connectivity and implementation of various development projects, the Asian Highway would enable the North-East region to become a business hub of South Asia.

    July 06, 2012

    Myanmar’s Critical Role in Bolstering India’s Look East Policy

    Cooperation with India will help natural resources-rich Myanmar develop its true potential. And cooperation with Myanmar will help India transform the North-East, bolster its Look East Policy, and help it emerge as a major Asian power

    February 02, 2012

    Should India ‘Be East’ or Be Eurasian?

    The recent fad among Western security commentaries is to portray India as a natural member of East Asian political life.

    March 2012

    Tamanthi Hydel Project: India’s Eastern Foothold

    Building dams like the Tamanthi represent India’s attempt to enhance strategic ties with Myanmar, which is seen as India’s gateway to the ASEAN.

    June 06, 2011

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    The study analyses the nature of Southeast Asia-India defence relations, the reasons for the growth in ties and more important, the consequences of the defence relations.

    2011

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