Look East. And Act East. It’s the flowering of the Asian Dream, and India’s burgeoning relations with the 10-nation ASEAN grouping are at the heart of this unfolding Asian resurgence.
This win-win synergy and chemistry between India and ASEAN, home to economic vibrancy, innovation and enterprise, will be encapsulated in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden trip to Myanmar November 11-14 to attend his first India-ASEAN summit and the 18-nation East Asia Summit.
The focus will be on pitching this crucial multi-layered relationship with this economically renascent region, which is home to around 600 million people and accounts for $2.5 trillion GDP, onto a higher trajectory.
India’s Act East Policy in 2015
India’s ‘Act East Policy,’ enunciated with great vigour and foresight by the new leadership, acquired a new force in 2015 and manifested itself in the deepening of economic and strategic partnership with ASEAN countries and the extended East Asia region.
India’s diplomatic efforts focused on leveraging synergies with this economically vibrant region and linking up these countries with India’s development agenda, pivoted around interlinked programmes of Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Start-up India, M-Governance and Skill India.
The year also saw a marked upgrade of India’s security cooperation with the region, with the two sides mapping out concrete steps to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism, piracy and traditional and non-traditional security threats.
These key drivers of Act East policy were reflected in PM Modi’s participation in India-ASEAN and EAS summits in Kuala Lumpur in November and in his bilateral visits to Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.
Singapore President’s visit to India, Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s trip to Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia, Myanmar’s foreign minister’s visit to India and visits of EAM Sushma Swaraj to Indonesia and Thailand telescoped multiple strands of intensified and reinvigorated engagement between India and the East Asia region across the spectrum.