FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
'Looking east' still a major Indian foreign policy
Posted:Apr 2, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

By Mahendra Ved 

PIVOTAL ROLE: Defence and security issues given greater consideration

Has India’s Look East Policy (LEP) been “Limp East” or “Leap East”?

Its policy planners would argue that they could not compare with or emulate smaller nations like Israel and Singapore. Their challenge was big population and territory, with numerous complexities.

Perceptions changed two decades back. The end of the Cold War and financial crisis at home necessitated economic reforms. LEP, conceptualised by then premier P.V. Narasimha Rao, was the natural corollary.

It was Southeast Asia initially, extended to the Asia-Pacific, in a clear shift in India’s worldview. But not a shift away from the West (Pakistan) and the North (China) that pose security threats and need engaging.

Rao was impressed by the changes since the 1980s in the Asia-Pacific region where Asean nations had the world’s fastest growing economies.

The LEP is actually “India looking east again”, Lalit Mansingh stresses in a book, Two Decades Of LEP”, published by the Indian Council of World Affairs.

He is among the “practitioners of Indian diplomacy” who translated Rao’s ideas into action. Retired now, they log their personal anecdotes and assessments.

Salman Haidar traces LEP’s origin to “an off-the-cuff slogan” adopted to boost the first visit by an Indian premier to South Korea in 1993. Rao had an important mission to Beijing on the way and the Seoul visit could not be allowed to be overshadowed.

It was “Look East”, like “Go East”, adapting Horace Grezy’s “Go West” slogan to American youth in the 1950s, he recalls.

Wonder how ideas and slogans sprout in corridors of power and what they can lead to. Rao’s Seoul sojourn “opened the floodgates” after he met the Korean chaebols or conglomerates. One of them launched the Daewoo car in India within months.

The book is ably edited by Amar Nath Ram, whom Rao recalled from Europe and placed him in charge of the new thrust area as secretary (economic relations). Pushing the LEP has been the principal task of officers in that post.

Haidar says the LEP “continues to play a pivotal role in India’s foreign policy”.

To Professor  S.D. Muni, that it all began in 1992 is a “myth”. Nehru originally “looked east” at the Asian Relations Conference (1946) when he sought to wean away leaders of emerging Asian nations from looking at their mostly Western colonial masters.

To Kanwal Sibal, India-Asean bad vibes were “because of the distortions of the Cold War” that included India’s estrangement with a military-ruled Myanmar, the debacle in the 1962 war with China that “damaged” Nehru’s leadership and India’s “disappointment” at the non-aligned nations of the region “not treating India as the victim of Chinese aggression”. Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka took the middle course in formulating disengagement proposals.

There is no apology whatsoever for the Myanmar policy, changed from opposing to assisting the military junta, that angered many against India.

Indeed, the analysts assert that:

 a) India has had to secure its northeastern border with Myanmar and Naypyidaw’s cooperation has helped curb militancy; and,

 b) the rising current approval of the changes in Myanmar by the sanctions-imposing nations has vindicated India’s stand against sanctions.

Shyam Saran, who was the envoy to Myanmar in the late 1990s, is highly critical of the opportunities India has ignored and lost, not just with Myanmar but much of Southeast Asia. He warns: “We miss this opportunity at our peril.”

On India being a counterpoise to China in Asia-Pacific, Haidar says originally LEP never carried that proposition. Ram stresses that from Rao onwards, none of the premiers saw India as competing with China. Yet, the LEP cannot “fail to factor the growing Chinese assertiveness and advances” in Southeast Asia.

Sudhir Devare views the LEP as “both an opportunity and challenge for India in shaping the security architecture of the region”.

Sibal cautions that Asean would “favour a better equilibrium between the role of India and China in the region, but not any destabilising rivalry between the two that will disturb its peace”.

Mansingh says the current LEP phase is definitely shifting to defence and security.

“Today, India is confident that Asean will be effective in maintaining an equitable strategic balance while perceiving regional rivalries from destabilising the region.”

Vijay Sakhuja advocates an institutional approach to LEP with projects that would ensure regional stability and build mutual trust. He foresees more illegal migration and suggests coordination among the navies in the humanitarian spectrum.

It takes two to tango. In its eastward reach India has many partners. It can tango with all of them.

mahendraved07@gmail.com

Source: New Strait Times, 2 April 2012

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
Thirteen year old Bhuma (name changed) spends his day at home. He does not go to school, or play with children in his neighborhood to avoid being laughed at.
 
read-more
While the South Asian region has its fair share of reasons to be quarrel over, if there is one thing that has managed to transcend boundaries, it has been the soft power of India. As a melting pot of diversity in itself, its cultures, languages, ethnicities and the like are in a symbiotic relation with those across the border. As a res
 
read-more
The April 13 Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) strike by the United States on ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan has triggered suggestions that a second round of the Cold War is set to begin. Particularly as the new US President, Donald Trump, seems to be brash, abrasive and capable of taking action without thinking of consequences.
 
read-more
India should be extremely wary of any Trump involvement on the Kashmir issue because he would do anything to bring India to the table, writes Dr. Susmit Kumar for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
The core parts of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system have been moved to the site of what had been a golf course in southern South Korea.
 
read-more
spotlight image Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sprang a surprise when he registered himself as a candidate in Iran’s presidential election scheduled for May 19. After leaving the office of President in 2013 at the end of two controversial terms, the firebrand populist has been largely inactive in politics. 
 
read-more
spotlight image I am honored to be here today for the first U.S. government exchange alumni conference for India and Bhutan.
 
read-more
Health of the citizens and the economy of the nation they inhabit go hand in hand and every buck spent on former guarantees a manifold increase in the latter,  said noted public health expert K Srikant Reddy. The lecture 'Health and Development: India Must Bridge the Disconnect' was ...
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: Bollywood Boom; Author: Roopa Swaminathan; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 399; Pages: 221

 
Column-image

Title: Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War; Author: Myra Macdonald; Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Pages: 328; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

  The story of Afghanistan -- of the war against the Soviets and of terrorism that has gripped the landlocked country ever since -- is in many ways also the story of diplomat Masood Khalili, who motivated his people and led them...

 
Column-image

Title: The Golden Legend; Author: Nadeem Aslam; Publisher: Penguin Random House; Pages: 376; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

Over the Years, a collection of 106 short articles, offers us interesting sidelights on the currents and cross- currents in the public life of India during two distinctive periods: (I) 1987 to 1991 and (II ) 2010 to the present.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive