External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday chaired a brainstorming session with 15 Indian heads of mission in South East and East Asia here to chart out the foreign policy initiatives to be undertaken in the strategically important region by the new BJP-led government.
This is the second heads of mission meeting that she has called for since assuming office in May. She held a similar session with heads of mission from the Middle East in Delhi.
Official sources said the meeting is a way to chart out the future roadmap and to get a frank assessment about the Indian foreign policy in the region and its potential. "The meetings will also look at possibility of extending India's soft power in the region, especially by creating cultural linkages," a diplomatic source told PTI.
Sources said the BJP-led government is keen to establish friendly and cultural ties with the countries in the region.
Swaraj, who is here on a bilateral visit, has stressed on the need for an 'Act East Policy' that she said should replace India's over two decade-old 'Look East Policy'.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said her visit to Vietnam was part of the Act East Policy. "She has said it is not enough to Look East but Act East. This is Act East in action. We began with the focus on neighbourhood and this has now moved on with focus on ASEAN. Our Prime Minister is going to Japan, so it further moves eastwards," Akbaruddin had said.
India is keen to boost its ties in the region especially with ASEAN. Stressing on the need for strong connectivity within ASEAN, Swaraj has said that there is a need to look at a more "functional visa regime" in the grouping.
She said the new government in India was a strong believer in a participative approach to bring together the members of the strategic community, the Industry, the experts and professionals and the youth in India and ASEAN countries to further the common agenda of development, progress and prosperity.