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Issue Debate #2: North East is the key to Act East Policy

edited September 2015 in Issue Debates
North East is the key to India's Act East Policy. In the light of the above statement, elaborate on the need for moving from India's Look East Policy to an Act East Policy. Why is the North East key to this policy? Highlight the various initiatives taken by India to engage the East.

Reading List:-
1. http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/shyam-saran-a-bridge-to-the-east-115090801363_1.html
2. http://www.theasanforum.org/from-look-east-to-act-east-transitions-in-indias-eastward-engagement/
3. http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/sunanda-k-datta-ray-time-for-concrete-action-115091900021_1.html
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Comments

  • @kaashonline
    Very good coverage of points.
    The only additional point I could think of was active participation for a successful BCIM corridor and ensuring maritime security in Indo Pacific region (AUSINDEX naval exercise with Australia).
  • Psychological :-O ??? Pakka
  • Already everything covered almost nothing left. I would like to add some issues of the NE region like drug trafficking, human trafficking, conflicts among tribes and administration, red corridor supplier, arms and funding from outside border for political and naxal activities... These internal issue can be well addressed and in long run sustainably settled by moving from look act to act east era. Development and new economic activities will intensify the further easing and deal with tribes like Naga Accord and hence will serve as the major strategic initiatives for development and peace along with bright future growth prospects(rising tourism).
    Frustrated soul! Life is full of trial and error.
  • An area of diverse cultures ...But most backward .The main issue is connectivity. A decent plan is required to mainstreaming them ..
    There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.
  • edited September 2015
    @kaashonline
    Very good coverage of points.
    The only additional point I could think of was active participation for a successful BCIM corridor and ensuring maritime security in Indo Pacific region (AUSINDEX naval exercise with Australia).
    Thank you, Sir!

    How could I forget BCIM :(

    Why is noone else answering today?

    @rattlesnake Sir,

    Would you mind attempting this?

    @kaashonline, I was about to attempt,but it was of no use as you've written beautifully and already included the important points with multidimensional view..trade,security,technology,culture,tourism.

    Some suggestions
    1.Make a flow,like look east was a prerequisite for act east and act east is the second stage of the process.
    2.Also in act east investments and transfer of technology is crucial like investment commitments by japan,clean technology assistance also engagement with shipping industry of Korea and lastly joint military exercises.
    3.Agreement with Australia on uranium for nuclear energy.
    4.BCIM,already covered.
    5.For northeastern India,importance of IWT by engaging with Bangladesh can be mentioned to shorten travel time and distance.

    Brilliant answer by the way :)
    " The more you sweat in peace , the less you bleed in war."
  • While providing connectivity to NE with the rest of India it has to be ensured that the autonomy of the states is not infringed upon. Protecting and preserving the diverse culture of this geographical region is crucial for ties with SEA and EA nations as they bear close cultural similarities. Efforts have to be made to promote religious and cultural tourism to the NE from both within India and the EA nations.
  • I think the issue is more about neglect of North east in efforts of act east.
    A. National integration hasn't occurred in true sense. 3 states have ILP , 4th is asking for the same
    B. Lack of transportation infrastructure. Railway connectivity is low. Kaladan multimodal transit system not working
    C. Proliferation of drug racket's, golden triangle , Myanmar base of naga factions
    D. Problem of illegal migration has not been resolved

    So no doubt India would immensely benefit from look east to act east, but it would first need to overhaul North east, reduce alienation, and make them the real gateway to east asia

    Also, harvesting the goodwill created with Bangladesh, it would do good to open another route through Bangladesh to North east.
  • India must first improve the physical infrastructure within the north eastern region in terms of road, rail connectivity as well as make use of inland waterways. Otherwise the region as a whole will turn into an entry point for imports. Security implications must also be taken care of, especially with regard to:
    Cross border terrorism
    Illegal immigration
    Drug trafficking
    Human trafficking
    In God, we trust.
  • Moreover, NE should not be reduced to just being a transit zone. Economic opportunities must be generated along the corridors for the benefit of the locals. Access to Chittagong port in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar would help in increasing exports from the region
    In God, we trust.
  • Look East policy was formulated way back in 1991 to engage more with the East and south east Asian countries but despite sharing common religious and cultural linkages, India was not engaging significantly with the south east asian countries. Our trade volume was not very high with South east Asian countries as compared to rest of the world. Thus, in last year LOOK EAST policy was transformed to ACT EAST policy to have more significant engagement in terms of all aspects i.e. cultural, economic and people to people contact.
    For success of ACT East policy, north east region of India can be a key because-
    a. Geographical advantage- North east region of India has border to many countries like- Bangladesh, Mayanmar, China etc. and is very proximate to the South east asian countries as compared to the other parts of countries.
    b. N-E region share common cultural linkage with the south east asian countries.
    c. Many projects like Trilateral highway which involve- India, mayanmar and Thailand pass through N-E, BCIM which will enhance connectivity of N-E with the south east asian region
    Though N-E region can be a key for success of Act east policy but connectivity has to be ensured-
    a. N-E should be connected very well with rest of the India.
    b. N-E should have sound infrastructure with itself i.e. high intraconnectivity.
    c. Connectivity with the south east asian regions interms of Air, water and roadways.

    Take care of the means, end will be taken care.
  • I would like to add 3 points:
    The benefit of Act East policy shall reach to the inhabitants of North east otherwise instead of becoming land of opportunity it can become zone of chaos.
    Secondly trade related infra such as custom offices shall be set along with adequate warehousing facility to integrate India manufacturing network to global manufacturing chain.
    Role of transboundary rivers shall also be underlined in creating efficient transporting network.
  • Before any developmental and economic activities are carried out in the NE the internal strife and violence has to be resolved first. This would require constructive dialogue between multiple stakeholders like the government and various tribal and non tribal organisations. The recent passage of 3 bills by the manipur assembly on ILP scheme without taking the opinion of the Hills Area Committee or different tribal groups into consideration and the ensuing violence as a result shows that a holistic approach towards solving the problem is required.

    The recent Muivah-Ravi agreement signed, while being a welcome step forward, apparently had not taken the MHA into confidence. Neither have the finer details of the accord been made public for people to pose their own views and suggestions on the matter.

    India and Myanmar have agreed to intensify cooperation between their security forces and border guarding agencies to fight insurgency and secure the border areas at the first meeting of their first Joint Consultative Committee. Such an agreement and regular bilateral meetings have to be held with Bangladesh as well so as to resolve border disputes and check infiltration and illegal immigration.
  • Enough covered about new initiative towards act east policy but why need to envolve north east into this?
    1- obviously prime reason is land connectivity of north east with these countries is easier to maintain.
    2- Although enough natural resources has been conserve in NE but yet not utilize for development of that region. Connectivity to NE is also difficult via chicken neck route so need to involve Bangladesh into it. For economic development of that region foreign export import easily can facilitate towards South Asia via NE.
    3- China Silk Road initiative and involvement of India Into it is important and that will happen while involving NE states.
    4- inner line permit, terrorism, and other conflicting issues will be in air till real development will not touch the people so for that two way approach is needed. One push from Delhi and second make NE as gateway to enter in South Asia so local economy will get boost.
  • At present, it appears that geographical contiguity alone is being touted as the reason for centrality of North East in India's Act East policy. Acceptance of any cultural commonality would not be very proper given the vast cultural diversity in the region and much inter-tribal hostility. There are many questions thus. Can North East remain central to Act East only by being a conduit or a 'gateway to East' through which rest of Indian trade passes? When much of East Asian and South East Asian nations are islands, how much of an impact can a trilateral highway or a land corridor based connectivity have ? How are our engagements with Asean or other nations - be they naval exercises or CECA/CEPA/FTA eventually going to affect this 'key' area.

    I honestly believe that North East at present does not appear to be central to our policy towards East. However, it has to be made central to it. The broad way forward would be to make it an exporting destination from India. Security and environmental concerns being acknowledged, there must be a major change in India's SEZ policy under which the SEZs should shift from west of India to its East. Reserving only 10% of GBS is not enough for the region's development apart from the ineffectiveness of regional planning due to multiplicity of bodies. We have far too long looked North East merely as portals to (South)East Asia. This is too utilitarian a view. It should also have a stake of its own and develop its own vested interests in (South) East Asia.
  • Almost all the points worth mentioning have been covered.
    Still the following can be summed up my contribution to the above answer:

    WHY ACT EAST (in addition to the points above)

    a) Opium Trade (cause of nuisance in the NE India)
    b) Shielding Bay of Bengal from China (Because of 3 strategic reasons- SHK in Lake Pulicat- Space, Wheeler Island- Defense, Andaman and Nicobar- Defense), countering STRING OF PEARLS.
    c) Stability and Peace in NE India (in light of recent upsurge in Manipur and need to involve Myanmmar)


    HOW ACTED EAST ? (in Addition to the above)

    a) BIMSTEC (As a linker to ASEAN and SAARC Countries)
    b) By minding our own business and by staying neutral to what happening in MYANMAR (JUNTA supressing democracy + Rohingyas Crises) even it goes against Indian Values so as to maintain Status Quo with Myanmar.
    c) Rejuvenating Nalanda University. (Buddhism as the binding force between India and Rest of the East Asian Countries)

    WHY NORTH EAST IS THE KEY ?

    There is circular referencing relationship between peace and stability in North East and our relationship with East Asian Countries. The balance is required to keep all the stakeholders satisfied.

  • Look East policy was formulated way back in 1991 to engage more with the East and south east Asian countries but despite sharing common religious and cultural linkages, India was not engaging significantly with the south east asian countries. Our trade volume was not very high with South east Asian countries as compared to rest of the world. Thus, in last year LOOK EAST policy was transformed to ACT EAST policy to have more significant engagement in terms of all aspects i.e. cultural, economic and people to people contact.
    For success of ACT East policy, north east region of India can be a key because-
    a. Geographical advantage- North east region of India has border to many countries like- Bangladesh, Mayanmar, China etc. and is very proximate to the South east asian countries as compared to the other parts of countries.
    b. N-E region share common cultural linkage with the south east asian countries.
    c. Many projects like Trilateral highway which involve- India, mayanmar and Thailand pass through N-E, BCIM which will enhance connectivity of N-E with the south east asian region
    Though N-E region can be a key for success of Act east policy but connectivity has to be ensured-
    a. N-E should be connected very well with rest of the India.
    b. N-E should have sound infrastructure with itself i.e. high intraconnectivity.
    c. Connectivity with the south east asian regions interms of Air, water and roadways.

    bro but there 45% trade with South east which is good but yes india fails compared to engagement by CHina
  • Before any developmental and economic activities are carried out in the NE the internal strife and violence has to be resolved first.
    Pakistani logic. Ditch it.
  • North Eastern India's geographical location makes it a natural bridge between India and ASEAN which was the focus of India's Look East Policy. Look East policy was formulated to increase co-operation with ASEAN nations, specially the Asian Tiger Economies. Look East policy succeeded in creating muli :P dimensional fruitful dialogue between India and ASEAN. Under the present govt. it was transformed into Act East policy to signal a proactive shift towards realising gains of Look East policy. Act East also marks a shift towards better engagement with East Asia with ASEAN continuing to be in focal position. As part of Act East India has taken up physical connectivity projects such as highways e.g. India-Myanmar-Thailand, BCIM, etc., upgraded economic and trade engagement, investment promotion, Scientific co-operation, cultural links with buddhism related sites, tourist facilitation, etc.

    After this NE-ves by @Nuralain followed by three pronged strategy by @kaashonline.
  • Before any developmental and economic activities are carried out in the NE the internal strife and violence has to be resolved first.
    Pakistani logic. Ditch it.
    I didn't get you.

  • I too think that it's high time the long due political integration of n
    NE takes place with the rest of India in a more comprehensive manner at ground level. A peaceful NE is absolutely essential for any advancements in economic activities, which when initiated shall positively feedback the political integration further.
  • I didn't get you.
    Saying before development we must end internal strife makes sense at an emotional level but is not practically feasible. Indeed, development is one of the solutions towards ending strife itself, so in a practical way, the two must happen side by side.

    I called it Pakistani Logic because it is like when they say we will not address other issues until Kashmir is resolved. Though it makes a strong emotional appeal on our side as well, it is not doable in reality.

    Extending the logic further, some people argue that there should be no investment in R&D in the space exploration sector until nobody on earth is dying of hunger, again, though there is nothing wrong with that, we must know that all creation is messy and things tend to happen side by side.

    hope this helps. :)
  • edited September 2015
    North East is the key to India's Act East Policy. In the light of the above statement, elaborate on the need for moving from India's Look East Policy to an Act East Policy. Why is the North East key to this policy? Highlight the various initiatives taken by India to engage the East.

    I would like to add few points on the need for moving from India's Look Est Policy to Act east Policy.

    Under India's Act East policy, the focus will be on fostering India's security and strategic interests along with economic interests. The New policy of Act East will also bring under its ambit East Asian Nations and Australia. The increased focus on strategic and security interest and bringing in East Asian Nations under the new policy has been made imperative because of:

    1. China's assertive maritime behavior in South China Sea and its increasing presence in Indian Ocean.
    2. Increasing economic and strategic importance of Indo Pacific.
    3.. US Policy of Asia Pivot
    4. Increase in international trade in the region.
    India wants to play an important role in Indian Ocean Region

    So moving from Look East to Act East will not only better serve India's economic interests but will also counter China's assertive behavior in the region along with making India an important player in Indo-Pacific geopolitics.

  • edited September 2015
    Just an after thought.... Does NE India merit engagement only because of its potential to link 'Mainland' with East-SE Asia? Why has Govt been so proactive in opening trade routes through Nathu La, while all along cast a blind eye to re-opening of the historic Still Well road which would have changed the economic situation of eastern Assam and AP? Is NE India's strategic importance derived from China's assertiveness in the maritime front? Can Look East policy succeed without addressing the rightful demands of the tribes and groups in NE? Can Look.East Policy succeed during the times when its cultural and psychological alienation even in the heart of the Capital is rampant, so much so that the chasm increases each passing day?
    When a dream dies, a new hope is born. What seems like an end is probably another beginning!
  • I wasn't aware or concious of the fact(s) or that Act East would go beyond the South East Asia to East Asia including Japan and Australia. So this helped. Thanks @kaashonline!
    *No good deed goes unpunished* | I am no knight, do not call me Sir | I write articles for Civil Services Aspirants, you can find them at http://blog.forumias.com/author/neyawn |
  • Indian Government change its policy look East to Act East policy after widening area from ASEAN countries to ASEAN plus ( Japan, South Korea, Australia etc. ) countries. However success of Act East Policy depend upon the North East states of India due to strategic location, & culture of these states. These states needs huge investment in infrastructure ( roads, railways etc), Tourism industry etc. This investment give India double advantage, first better livelihood of people of North east & second strong grassroots for Act east policy because land connective to East Asian countries from India only through North East States. GoI has already taken initiative by signing BCIM corridor with Bangladesh, China, India & Myanmar, Signing Nuclear supply deal, maritime exercise with Australia etc for success of act East policy.
  • adding a point.
    we have to mention that the initiatives taken under act east policy results in twin benefits.
    firstly, its beneficial to india as a whole. secondly, its beneficial to NE in particular.
    these initiatives like infrastructure developmnt, connectivity, investments,etc will play a crucial role in addressing the perennial problems of NE by creating employment, poverty alleviation, extremism, and mainly better integration of this region with rest of india.
  • Look east policy and Act east policy have approaches which are parallels of proven successes when implemented in succession,the latter after the first.We are living in a highly competitive world and thus every foreign policy initiative of India is an inspiration from either China or USA.But there are serious flaws in this outlook.
    The foremost problem is our complacency in linking Look East with Act East.The assertion here is that Look East policy is a reactionary policy,the kind I discussed earlier.It developed as a consequence of China's increasing interference in bordering regions of North East and India's support for Lama and Tibet's demands along with a retaliation by India for China's outreach in Ladakh and Pakistani side of POK.
    Act East Policy on the other hand is a proactive, self initiated policy,which is just touched by competition from abroad and that too is focussed upon economy,technology,cooperation in multilateral forums,building capabilities in infrastructure,defence,knowledge sharing and boosting trade.This policy envisions India in a blue ocean where we envision our future with purity,untouched by prejudices of animosity.
  • I didn't get you.
    Saying before development we must end internal strife makes sense at an emotional level but is not practically feasible. Indeed, development is one of the solutions towards ending strife itself, so in a practical way, the two must happen side by side.

    I called it Pakistani Logic because it is like when they say we will not address other issues until Kashmir is resolved. Though it makes a strong emotional appeal on our side as well, it is not doable in reality.

    Extending the logic further, some people argue that there should be no investment in R&D in the space exploration sector until nobody on earth is dying of hunger, again, though there is nothing wrong with that, we must know that all creation is messy and things tend to happen side by side.

    hope this helps. :)
    Thanks! I guess it's better to say that peace and development have to be achieved in tandem instead of one after the other. Because they're the causative agents of each other.

  • Situation in northeast present challenges as well as opportunity. Economic improvement in North East can address the gape prevailing in inclusive growth. Vast energy resources could not only significantly improve power deficit problem but power could be easily exported through energy corridors as well. Vast natural resources makes it an important supplier of raw material for india's make in India endeavour. Food processing industry can become major exporter of processed food. Sericulture, Horticulture, Ayurvedic medicines are other areas where Northeast can Bank upon for its development.
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