India’s Look East Policy seems to offer huge potential and developmental scope for India’s North Eastern Region. However, there is an absence of sincere dialogue between the northeastern states and the center, resulting in an obvious gap between policy and implementation.
Editorial Note: While this paper was originally written in 2010, it brings about important perspectives on the developments of India’s internal and foreign relations. For this reason, we found merit in publishing this previously unpublished paper, even though it does not account for developments post 2010.
By Sabina Yasmin Rahman, 15th May 2013
In the year 1991-92, under the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, India launched its “Look East” Policy (LEP), an active economic policy of engagement with Southeast Asia to be implemented as an official initiative in achieving two objectives: the encouragement of trade links with individual partners and to provide foreign employment for India’s own expanding work force. This paper is an attempt to critically analyze the various underpinnings of this policy and study the impact it has been able to make so far with special reference to the context of the North-east of India.
Backdrop of the Policy:
With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and the onset of the era of globalization and economic liberalization, the need to secure international trade and encourage foreign investments was felt strongly by nations all over the world. The 1990s was a period seeing rapid economic development and growth of Asian countries, especially in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia came to be recognized a region with vast economic potential and the Indian sub-continent was fast emerging as an economic and political force to be reckoned with. This is when the Indian leadership came up with the concept of “Look East”. India sought to create and expand regional markets for trade, investments and industrial development. It also began strategic and military cooperation with nations concerned by the expansion of China’s economic and strategic influence. Thus, from the very start, India’s strategy has focused on forging close economic and commercial ties, increasing strategic and security cooperation with emphasis on historic cultural and ideological links.