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International Relations

India’s Act East Policy

  • 18 Mar 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Union Minister of State Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) said that connectivity is an important element of Act East Policy.

Key Points

  • About:
    • The ‘Act East Policy’ announced in November, 2014 is the upgrade of the “Look East Policy”.
    • It is a diplomatic initiative to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region at different levels.
    • It involves intensive and continuous engagement with Southeast Asian countries in the field of connectivity, trade, culture, defence and people-to-people-contact at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
  • Aim:
    • To promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and developing a strategic relationship with countries in Indo-pacific region with a proactive and pragmatic approach and thereby improving the economic development of the North Eastern Region (NER) which is a gateway to the South East Asia Region.

Look East Policy

  • In order to recover from the loss of the strategic partner -USSR (end of the Cold war 1991), India sought to build up a relationship with the USA and allies of the USA in Southeast Asia.
  • In this pursuit, former Prime minister of India P V Narasimha Rao launched Look East policy in 1992, to give a strategic push to India’s engagement with the South-East Asia region, to bolster its standing as a regional power and a counterweight to the strategic influence of the People’s Republic of China.
  • Difference Between Look East and Act East:
    • Look East:
      • Look East policy focused on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries + Economic Integration.
        • India became a dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1996 and summit level partner in 2002.
        • In 2012 the relationship got up-graded into a Strategic Partnership.
        • The time when India launched the Look East Policy in 1992, India's trade with ASEAN was USD 2 billion. After signing the Free Trade Agreement in 2010 with ASEAN, the trade has grown to USD 72 billion (2017-18).
        • India is also an active participant in several regional forums like the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) etc.
    • Act East:
      • Act East Policy focused on ASEAN countries + Economic Integration + East Asian countries + Security cooperation.
        • Prime minister of India highlighted 4C's of Act East Policy.
          • Culture
          • Commerce
          • Connectivity
          • Capacity building
      • Security is an important dimension of India's Act East Policy.
        • In the context of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, securing freedom of navigation and India's own role in the Indian Ocean is a key feature of Act East Policy.
        • In pursuance of this, India has been engaged under the narrative of Indo-pacific and informal grouping called Quad.
  • Initiatives to Enhance Connectivity:
    • Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link between India and Bangladesh.
    • Intermodal transport linkages and inland waterways through Bangladesh.
    • Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and the Trilateral Highway Project connecting the North East with Myanmar and Thailand.
    • Under India-Japan Act East Forum, projects such as Road and Bridges and modernization of Hydro-electric power projects have been undertaken.
      • India-Japan Act East Forum was established in 2017 which aims to provide a platform for India-Japan collaboration under the rubric of India’s "Act East Policy” and Japan’s "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”.
      • The Forum will identify specific projects for economic modernization of India’s North-East region including those pertaining to connectivity, developmental infrastructure, industrial linkages as well as people-to-people contacts through tourism, culture and sports-related activities.
  • Other Initiatives:
    • Assistance extended in the form of medicines/medical supplies to ASEAN countries during the pandemic.
    • Scholarships with offers of 1000 PhD fellowships have been offered at IITs for ASEAN countries participants.
    • India is also implementing Quick Impact Projects in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to provide development assistance to grass-root level communities in the fields of education, water resources, health etc.
      • Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) are small-scale, low cost projects that are planned and implemented within a short timeframe.


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