Bangalore International Centre had arranged a talk on “India’s Look East Policy” by Ms. Latha Reddy, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, on Friday, 10th December, 2010 at 6:30 pm. The Talk was moderated by Prof. S.L. Rao, Member, Board of Governors, ISEC.
In a lucid historical analysis, Ms. Latha Reddy outlined the close relationships India had with countries in Eastern Asia since ancient times and the political, economic and cultural footprints of India in those countries since those days which are visible even now. This process slowed down during the medieval period and declined considerably during the later years when the country came under colonial powers. There was a revival of relationship with the eastern neighbors after Independence and the emergence of non-aligned movement in which India played a pivotal role. However, the emphasis on the foreign policy front was still “Look West”, rather than “Look East”. The need to kickstart development to catch up with the developed world and the compulsions created by two major power blocs probably contributed to this process. It was during the beginning of the 90’s, the changes started becoming apparent.
Initiated in 1991, India's "Look East" Policy marked a strategic shift in India’s perspective of the world.
Look East policy is an attempt to forge closer and deeper economic integration with its eastern neighbors as a part of the new realpolitik in evidence in India’s foreign policy, and the engagement with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a part of the recognition on the part of India’s elite of the strategic and economic importance of the region to the country’s national interests.
Ms. Reddy drew attention to the rapid developments which have taken place in recent years in consolidating India’s friendship with East Asian countries in the wake of engagements with ASEAN, the 8th India- ASEAN Summit, East Asia Summit and other initiatives like Mekong- Ganga Cooperation and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). She underscored the fact that there was enough space available for both India and China to co-exist and that the relationship between the two was based on pragmatism. In the interactive session, several attempts to bowl bouncers to Ms. Latha Reddy regarding the relations with China were made; but she alternatively ducked or neatly deflected them away with the dexterity and ease of a Sachin Tendulkar. It was indeed an informative and enjoyable session.