Since 2018, India’s ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ policies have moved into the phase of Indo-Pacific policy and strategy. Hence, an effective way to work for a ‘free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous’ Indo-Pacific is to see how these five characteristics may be made more applicable to our eastern region.


What the East wants?

  • The Northeast which comprises seven ‘sisters’ or States and one ‘brother’, Sikkim, has been witnessing transformation as it heads towards better security conditions and development.
  • By absorbing and factoring in the perspectives of stakeholders at the ground level, the Indo-Pacific policy can deliver better results.
  • The official perspective is that the pernicious phenomena of smuggling, drug trafficking, transnational border crime, insurgent activity, and the influx of refugees (from Myanmar) represented serious non-traditional threats. China was viewed as a ‘constant player’ behind these nefarious activities.
  • Others representing local communities, however, expressed concern over the insensitive handling of those engaged in lawful exchanges with the neighbouring countries. A balanced view indicates that considerable scope exists for more effective and people-sensitive border management in the future.


What should be done?

  • The Northeast is on the right path to concentrate on economic development. More is awaited through improvement in roads linking northeastern towns and job creation for thousands of graduates produced by local universities.
  • Clearly, expanding the reach of cultural diplomacy and people-to-people cooperation through greater educational exchanges, tourism, and trade is desirable.
  • The “shared culture, history and mutual social threads that tie the region with India [are] also an important component towards fostering regional cooperation”.
  • Diplomats from the region agree on the importance of expanded people-related cooperation which would lead to wider acceptance of the Indo-Pacific and consolidation of the Quad.
  • Two common threads have emerged from recent exchanges.
      • First, the growing significance of the Bay of Bengal region permeates the thinking of scholars. The concept of the Indo-Pacific seems distant, but the moment it is perceived as the outer circle of the Bay of Bengal and its littorals, it comes closer to home. Therefore, member-states need to invest more in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to enhance its effectiveness.
      • Second, in implementing India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, voices from Northeast and eastern India must be heard. Thus, beyond ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ lies ‘Think and Relate East’, especially within our own country.


SourceThe Hindu


QUESTION – It is imperative for India to ensure that its Indo-Pacific strategy should start from the point of Northeast and East India. Comment.