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
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Ties between India and Japan are probably at their best ever, Japanese Ambassador to India H.E. Kenji Hiramatsu told India Review & Analysis’ Nilova Roy Chaudhury, as he outlined how the two countries have moved closer. Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit
 
read-more
India will on September 26 dispatch around 900 tonnes of relief material for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh which is being loaded on to Indian Naval Ship Gharial at Kakinada port in Andhra Pradesh.
 
read-more
That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.
 
read-more
Reflections on September evoke a host of memories.
 
read-more
  During the budget session of the legislative assembly, the Chief Minister informed the  House about state’s missing children. According to her, as many as 162 children have gone missing in the past three years.
 
read-more
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to amend its constitution at the upcoming national congress.
 
read-more
An atmospheric test by Pyongyang  would ensure that North Korea could become a pariah state for the rest of Kim Jong-Un’s lifetime...However, their technologies in terms of making nuclear and thermonuclear bombs and rocketry that was acquired from late Pakistani scientist A Q Khan network and the Chinese/Soviet sources merit
 
read-more
The apprehension was justified. US President Donald Trump’s disregard for institutions and fondness for reckless rhetoric meant that his maiden appearance at the annual UN General Assembly was a closely watched affair.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive