Monday, February 26, 2024

Look East thrust

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India launched its Look East policy two decades ago and finally it appears to be making headway in strategic fields. The visits of Vietnam’s President Truang Tan Sang and Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein, coming one after the other, exemplify the current thrust. Relations with Vietnam have taken a big leap forward. India and Vietnam have traditional ties going back to the heyday of Buddhism. Politically they have been allies for long. New Delhi supported Hanoi when both the US and China were unfriendly. Vietnam now has a bustling economy. India should forge links with it in its economic drive. The full gamut of ties between the two countries should take in economic, energy and defence cooperation enabling India to make its presence felt in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is a good market for Indian goods and an attractive investment destination. Cooperation in energy, manufacturing and IT can pay rich dividends.

It is desirable that the Asean Free Trade Agreement in services and investment is finalised soon. Ties with Myanmar will meet India’s security needs and promote the economic growth of the Northeast. Yangon is moving towards political reform. Earlier, the crusader for democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi had been released from house arrest. Close to 200 political prisoners have recently been set free. India can help Myanmar emerge from political isolation. The Chinese bugbear need not obscure New Delhi’s foreign policy imperatives. The Chinese objection to Indian companies securing exploration rights in Vietnamese blocs in South China Sea had no effect. India should make sure that China does not stand in the way of the implementation of its Look East policy.

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