“India’s Look East Policy is not merely an external economic policy, it is also a strategic shift in India’s vision of the world and India’s place in the evolving global economy. Most of all it is about reaching out to our civilisational neighbours in South East Asia and East Asia”-- Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh
In many ways the post Cold War external environment of a globalizing world, without rival political alliances, gave India the opportunity to improve relations with all major powers. This was the time (1991), when India launched its Look East Policy. This also coincided with the period when India had launched her economic liberalization reforms. With India’s obsession towards Pakistan and with its preoccupations with China, the South East Asian region did not figure much in its foreign policy till the early 90s. South East Asia was a growing market with countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. China had already entrenched itself deeply in most of these countries over a period of time. Though some analysts pointed out that by launching this policy India was trying to balance China’s influence in this region, India had often reiterated that it was not competing with China in any manner. India had to go beyond the confines of SAARC if it had to reap the benefits out of the economic potential of the South East Asian region and establish itself as a regional power.
India’s attitude towards ASEAN during its early years was ambivalent but not hostile. The Indian leadership viewed ASEAN as an American “imperialist surrogate” while ASEAN dubbed India as the “surrogate of the Soviet Union”. The signing of the Friendship Treaty with the Soviets, India’s stand on Afghanistan and India’s recognition of the Hang Samarin Government in 1981—all these led to estrangement between India and ASEAN India’s decision not participate as a dialogue partner in 1980 was a further setback. The expansion of the Indian Navy in the early 1990s and the military assistance provided to Maldives had led to adverse propaganda in Australia and ASEAN. It is only after some Joint Naval exercises with the South East Asian nations and the collapse of the Soviet Republic, India’s efforts to improve relations with ASEAN gained momentum. India-ASEAN relations have deepened and intensified significantly in recent years. India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992. In 1995 this was upgraded to full dialogue partnership. It participated in the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in July 1996. Since 2002, India has annual summits with ASEAN along with China, Japan and Republic of Korea. These political level interactions are further strengthened through the Senior Officials’ meetings, as also specialized working groups in functional areas. India-ASEAN functional cooperation includes cooperation in sectors such as, Science & Technology, Human Resources Development, Health and Pharmaceuticals, Space Sciences, Agriculture, Information & Communication Technology, Transport and Infrastructure, Tourism and Culture and Small and Medium Enterprises etc.
Proposed New Measures:
•Realizing India-ASEAN trade target of US $ 50 billion by 2010. •Simplification of visa regime for business persons travelling from India to ASEAN and vice-versa •Launching of an India-ASEAN Health care initiative with a focus to provide basic drugs at low cost, •Setting up of an India-ASEAN Green Fund for undertaking pilot projects to tackle issues associated with Climate Change •An expanded Open Skies Policy with ASEAN and
•A target of 1 million tourists to India from ASEAN region by the year 2010.
Political and Security Issues –ASEAN has expressed desirability to work together to fight terrorism and transnational crime, combating corruption and promoting good governance and the...