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2018 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

From Look East to Act East: Transitions in India’s Eastward Engagement

Author : Rahul Mishra

Published in: International Relations and Asia’s Southern Tier

Publisher: Springer Singapore


Through the “Act East Policy,” India is not only striving to engage Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries but also the countries of the Asia-Pacific region in political, strategic, cultural, and economic domains. India is widely envisaged to be a major power and one of the key stakeholders in the emerging Asia-Pacific security architecture. Given India’s buoyant economic performance and strategic footprints in the region, and its implicit potential to balance China, ASEAN members and other countries of the region have begun to perceive India as a natural partner. This has significantly boosted the efficacy of India as a potential “power of consequence” in the region. It probably has the best cards to play in the region, but is yet to play them smartly.

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Act East finds mention in the US–India joint statement. “Noting India’s ‘Act East’ policy and the United States’ rebalance to Asia, the leaders committed to work more closely with other Asia Pacific countries through consultations, dialogues, and joint exercises. They underlined the importance of their trilateral dialogue with Japan and decided to explore holding this dialogue among their Foreign Ministers.” For details see, U.S.-India Joint Statement, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, September 30, 2014, http://​www.​whitehouse.​gov/​the-press-office/​2014/​09/​30/​us-india-joint-statement.
The first reference to the need to shift from “Look East” is found in Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of the Indian Parliament in November 2010, where he called upon India to not just “Look East” but “Engage East.” “Remarks by the President to the Joint Session of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, India,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, November 8, 2010, http://​www.​whitehouse.​gov/​the-press-office/​2010/​11/​08/​remarks-president-joint-session-indian-parliament-new-delhi-india.
See Rahul Mishra, “India’s Antipodean Neighbour: Why Engaging Australia Matters,” Indian Foreign Affairs Journal 3, no. 4 (November-December 2008), 55–72.
“Joint Statement on the State Visit of Prime Minister of Australia to India,” Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Prime Minister’s Office, September 6, 2014, http://​pib.​nic.​in/​newsite/​PrintRelease.​aspx?​relid=​109379.
For details see Rahul Mishra, “India-Australia Energy Cooperation: The Road Ahead,” Strategic Analysis 34, no. 6 (2010): 826–832.
“Framework for Security Cooperation between India and Australia,” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 18, 2014, http://​www.​mea.​gov.​in/​bilateral-documents.​htm?​dtl/​24268/​Framework+for+Se​curity+Cooperati​on+between+India​+and+Australia.
“China chill behind warmth of India-Australia security pact,” The Indian Express, November 20, 2014, http://​indianexpress.​com/​article/​india/​india-others/​china-chill-behind-warmth-of-india-australia-security-pact/​.
“Malcolm Turnbull’s India Visit strengthens India-Australia Ties”, External Services Division, All India Radio, April 12, 2017 http://​airworldservice.​org/​english/​archives/​44381
Rahul Mishra & Shamshad A. Khan, “How Shinzo Abe’s visit will strengthen India’s ties with Japan”, DNA, December 11, 2015, http://​www.​dnaindia.​com/​analysis/​standpoint-how-shinzo-abe-s-visitwill-strengthen-india-s-ties-with-japan-2154332
“Rahul Mishra, “Fighting insurgency on the India–Myanmar border”, East Asia Forum, April 21, 2016, http://​www.​eastasiaforum.​org/​2016/​04/​21/​fighting-insurgency-on-the-india-myanmar-border/​
For details, see Rahul Mishra, “Winds of Change,” Deccan Herald, January 22, 2012, http://​m.​deccanherald.​com/​content/​221292/​winds-change.​html/​.
“PM Narendra Modi’s Japan visit: 10 key takeaways,” The Economic Times, September 2, 2014, http://​articles.​economictimes.​indiatimes.​com/​2014-09-02/​news/​53479892_​1_​india-and-japan-bullet-trains-pm-narendra-modi.
“India-Japan Joint Statement during the visit of Prime Minister to Japan”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 11, 2016, http://​mea.​gov.​in/​bilateral-documents.​htm?​dtl/​27599/​IndiaJapan+Joint​+Statement+durin​g+the+visit+of+P​rime+Minister+to​+Japan
“English Rendering of the India-ASEAN Summit Opening Statement by the PM,” http://​www.​narendramodi.​in/​english-rendering-of-the-india-asean-summit-opening-statement-by-the-pm/​ November 12, 2014.
She also visited Myanmar and Singapore, the other two critically important countries for India in the ASEAN region.
“India-Indonesia coordinated patrol graduates into joint exercise,” The Hindu, February 6, 2014, http://​www.​thehindu.​com/​news/​national/​indiaindonesia-coordinated-patrol-graduates-into-joint-exercise/​article5661161.​ece.
“Differences came out during Narendra Modi–Xi Jinping meet ahead of BRICS Summit,” The Economic Times, July 25, 2014, http://​articles.​economictimes.​indiatimes.​com/​2014-07-25/​news/​52026341_​1_​south-china-sea-pok-gwadar-port.
“Arun Jaitley expresses reservations on China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ proposal”, Mint, May 6, 2017, http://​www.​livemint.​com/​Politics/​agTlF5TIE6uUAmpf​ipR3bP/​Arun-Jaitley-expresses-reservations-on-Chinas-One-Belt-On.​html
“Sushma Swaraj discusses trade, insurgency with Myanmar,” The Indian Express, August 12, 2014, http://​indianexpress.​com/​article/​india/​india-others/​swaraj-discusses-trade-insurgency-with-myanmar/​.
“Prime Minister’s remarks at the 9th East Asia Summit, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar,” Ministry of External Affairs, Speeches and Statements, November 13, 2014, http://​www.​mea.​gov.​in/​Speeches-Statements.​htm?​dtl/​24238/​Prime_​Ministers_​remarks_​at_​the_​9th_​East_​Asia_​Summit_​Nay_​Pyi_​Taw_​Myanmar.
For details, see Sana Hashmi, “South China Sea Imbroglio: An Indian Perspective,” Air Power 8, no. 1 (Spring 2013, January-March): 149–166.
“Remarks by the President to the Joint Session of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, India.”
For details, see Rahul Mishra, “Mosaics of Culture: Investigating the Role of Cultural Linkages in India–Indonesia Relations,” IDSA Issue Brief, January 19,2011,http://​www.​idsa.​in/​issuebrief/​MosaicsofCulture​sInvestigatingth​eRoleofCulturalL​inkagesinIndiaIn​donesiaRelations​.​html.
Saroj Pathak, India and Southeast Asia; A Study of Indian Perspective and Policy Since 1962 (Delhi: Atma Ram & Sons, 1990), 42–43.
“‘Make twenty-first Century truly an Asian Century’: PM, Keynote address at special leaders dialogue of ASEAN Business Advisory Council,” Press Information Bureau, December 12, 2005, http://​pib.​nic.​in/​newsite/​erelease.​aspx?​relid=​14102.
Institutional engagements between India and ASEAN have been multilayered. ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN + 1 Framework (Summit level meetings between ASEAN and India), EAS, and lately, the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus are to name a few.
“India signs FTA in services, investments with ASEAN. Will help professionals get greater market access, says FICCI,” The Tribune, September 9, 2014, http://​www.​tribuneindia.​com/​2014/​20140910/​biz.​htm#1.
The six countries are India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Based on author’s work, “RCEP: Challenges, opportunities for India,” The Jakarta Post, August 2, 2013.
A country can be termed a “power of consequence” if it has the ability to substantially influence the politico-security and economic dynamics of a particular region.
A.N.Ram, Two Decades of India’s Look East Policy (New Delhi: Manohar Publisher, 2012), 77.
Based on author’s work, “India-Thailand Relations in East Asian Security Dynamics,” in SD Muni and Vivek Chadha, Asian Strategic Review (New Delhi: Pentagon Press,2014), 171–172.
John Bradford, “Southeast Asian maritime security in the age of terror: threats, opportunity, and charting the course forward,” IDSS working paper, No. 75, April 2005.
U.R. Rao, India’s Rise as a Space Power (New Delhi: Foundation Books, 2014), 193.
C. Raja Mohan, “Not so easy to Act East,” The Indian Express, November 22, 2014, http://​indianexpress.​com/​article/​opinion/​columns/​not-so-easy-to-act-east/​.
Moe Thuzar, Rahul Mishra, Francis Hutchinson, Tin Maung Maung Than, and Termsak Chalermpalanupap, “Connecting South and Southeast Asia: Implementation Challenges and Coordination Arrangements,” ADBI Working Paper Series, Asian Development Bank Institute, No. 501 September 2014 http://​www.​adbi.​org/​files/​2014.​09.​30.​wp501.​connecting.​south.​southeast.​asia.​challenges.​pdf.
From Look East to Act East: Transitions in India’s Eastward Engagement
Rahul Mishra
Copyright Year
Springer Singapore

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