The NDA government has decided to change the name of a key foreign policy approach that remained in currency since the days of PV Narasimha Rao government in 1990s. The Look East policy will now be known as the Act East policy.
The joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama bears testimony to this change.
“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,” the joint statement said.
The Act East policy is India’s effort aimed at bolstering extensive strategic and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries that would possibly act a counterweight to the influence of China in the region.
Officials have said that there is no political reason behind the name change.
“The Act East policy is like Look East policy 2.0. The name change has no political connotation to it,” said an official.
Regarding the policy, PM Modi is keen on expediting the economic agenda with Southeast Asian countries tapping them for greater investment — especially in the infrastructure sector — also driven by connecting trade points in the region, said officials.
They added that this will bring greater economic benefit to the northeastern region in India.
India’s business with ASEAN countries is only 30% of total ASEAN trade, and government is keen on increasing it.
As part of the plan, the government is looking into providing the visa-on-arrival facility to more countries in the ASEAN region.
“For example, linking south Asia with Southeast Asia through Myanmar will be a top priority. Countries in the region will be partners in the economic plans of the PM,” said an official. Singapore, India’s closest partner in its ‘Act Asia’ is helping India in two of the key initiatives of Modi — smart cities and skill development.