India's Look East policy is all about revival of her pre-colonial and multi-dimensional interactions with South East Asia, especially through trade, that were ruptured by the European colonialists including the British which consciously sought to perpetuate racial segregations, says a new book.
This conclusion sinks deep in diplomat-academician Veena Sikri's latest book "India and Malaysia: Interwined Strands" (Manohar Publication), which delves into the past to look at the future of two regions in order to recognise what Rabindranath Tagore wrote in a poem he composed after his visit to Malaysia and Indonesia in 1927: "The old that has been lost, to be regained and made new."
The book, quotes a scientific study initiated by Prof Edison Liu, Executive Director at the Genome Institute of Singapore, that "Dravidians and Chinese had common ancestors" and "the people of South, South East Asia and East Asia are linked by a unifying genetic thread".
The study challenges the long-held belief that Asia was populated by two waves of migration?one from South East Asia to and the second from Central Asia and claims it was just a single wave of migration from Africa to India and South East Asia and East Asia.
The most important aspect of India's linkages with South East Asia is, as Sikri tells us, not marked by political conquest through war or coercion or colonial subjugation but by free movement of goods and people.
"Trade, religion and culture were the leitmotifs of the process, technological prowess the mainstay," says the author.
The book talks about intermingling of race, language and culture across South and South East Asia and says the Mon-Khmer languages are spoken in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Northeast Thailand, parts of Malaysia, by the Nicobarese in Nicobar Islands and by the Khasis in Meghalaya.
The Munda languages, distantly related to Vietnamese and Khmer, are spoken in by the Munda people who live in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Assam and parts of Bangladesh, according to the book.
The author has chosen to devote a considerable section of the book in analysing the India-Malaysia ties and plight of Indians who migrated to and settled in Malaysia through the perspectives of Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. (Tagore and Nehru had visited Malaysia between 1927 and 1937)and their influences on relations between India and Malaysia.
It also speaks about Indian migrants, many of whom were indentured labourers taken by the British to work in rubber plantations, in that country.