“Positioning India - ASEAN Relations in a transformed Asian Landscape”
Without a doubt, India has been a latecomer in forging ties with Southeast Asia, despite the Look East policy of the Narasimha Rao government of the early 1990s. When Prime Minister Modi articulated the Act East policy, it was evident that ASEAN’s growing importance and centrality in the Asian landscape had been recognised.
The lecture will address aspects underlining ASEAN’s centrality, implying that it is at the core of trade agreements, at the centre of maritime power security including the freedom of navigation-; and a forum where leaders and people meet. At present, ASEAN is at the centre of the largest trade agreement – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership being negotiated among ASEAN plus six countries as well as the evolving Indo-Pacific construct at the strategic level. With the transformations in the regional and global space, dominated by China’s rise, there is a visible change in the way countries in South East Asia are being bilaterally engaged by China.
This presents several challenges for India. Can India really Act East even as it is marginalized in its own traditional sphere of influence? Does it have the potential to measure upto the expectations of ASEAN countries? These and some other aspects of India’s regional positioning are discussed.