ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India's Look East Policy

What is the nature of "national self-interest" which is driving India's Look East policy?

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited India in July soon after he took office, United States President Barack Obama made his high-profile visit earlier this month and more high profile visits are in the offing – French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are to come calling soon. However, as important, if not more, has been India’s much quieter diplomacy with east and south-east Asian countries in the recent past.

It was in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the cold war, the emergence of the US as the sole superpower and the initiation of economic reforms in India, that the government of P V Narasimha Rao announced a diplomatic initiative, titled “Look East”, to build on stagnant relations with these countries. The first focus of this was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member-countries, particularly Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Burma. In fact, it was this policy which changed India’s stance from one of supporting Aung San Suu Kyi to building relations with Burma’s military dictators. Today this policy has borne impressive fruits with India’s engagement with its eastern neighbours growing to include Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea and Japan. In the past few months there have been high level official and military interactions between India and Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, South Korea, Burma, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Laos, apart from summit level meetings with ASEAN heads of state as part of the ASEAN-plus diplomatic architecture. Those visiting have been prime ministers and presidents, defence ministers and foreign ministers, and military chiefs.

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