Bridging India-ASEAN Ties
Despite massive potential, the economic and strategic cooperation between India and southeast nations is yet to reach expected heights. Many international relationship experts blame India’s west-centric foreign policy for lukewarm relationships with the nations situated in the convergence point of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Thus, it is a welcome relief that New Delhi and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have recently decided to form a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The partnership will aid both sides in various aspects including sustainable development and peace, aside from an enhanced engagement with ASEAN countries. The move will certainly help the Asia-Pacific region make steady progress in terms of improving ties among various nations in this region and can make it one of the stronger regional groupings in the world.
At the same time, the partnership may immensely help the Northeastern region of India in achieving the still elusive development as this part of the country is crucial in India’s effort to improving relationships with ASEAN countries. It is unfortunate that for the first three decades of independence, not much effort was made to utilise the Northeastern region as a bridge for the betterment of economic and cultural ties with ASEAN states. The scenario began to change in the early nineties when New Delhi adopted the much touted ‘Look East’ policy. Perhaps in appreciation of the said policy, ASEAN made India a summit-level partner in the beginning of the new millennium, which marked the beginning of the strategic relationship between the two sides.
Thus far the implementation of the ‘Look East’ policy has been sluggish and as a result the Northeast region is yet to fully benefit from it. It is hoped that with the upgradation of relationship, the situation will change for the better and close cooperation between the two sides will ensure the much-needed speedy economic development of the region, allowing it to become more peaceful and prosperous. Time has come now to implement the ‘Look East’ policy with renewed vigour as only successful implementation of the policy will make the partnership meaningful.
So, the major thrust of the partnership should be closer cooperation between the two sides in-order to utilise the full potential of India and other South East Asian nations, especially in the fields of trade and commerce. It may change the economic scenario of the region immensely as Northeast will act as the gateway to such an endeavour. In this context, it is necessary to ease a number of restrictions which may hinder the prospects of better cooperation between the two sides. Many experts argue that India and ASEAN nations are now at the threshold of scripting history by opening a new vista of cooperation and understanding with the northeastern region acting as the main link, which will certainly help the NE region of India to prosper to its full potential.