The Asianist

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Archive for the ‘South Asia’ Category

ASEAN-India Relations and US Strategy in the Asia-Pacific

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Last week, as the 3rd US-India Strategic Dialogue was going on, I co-wrote an article for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC with Ernie Bower looking at ASEAN-India relations as both sides commemorate two decades of their official partnership.

The purpose of the article was two-fold: first, highlighting the importance of India’s role in the Asia-Pacific and US interests in the region, and, second, noting both the opportunities and limits to potential cooperation between India and ASEAN (and the US as well).

We propose some areas where both ASEAN and India can work together, such as building infrastructure, improving people-to-people ties and private sector collaboration. The idea is to get from India’s “Look East” policy which dates back to the early 1990s to “acting East”, as several US officials have urged New Delhi to do.

But we are also not naïve about how factors like India’s domestic politics and its identity may constrain its ability to work with ASEAN and the United States and also disappoint those who expect New Delhi to play a dominant role in the region.

You can read the full thing here.  I’ve gotten some feedback about the article, but I always welcome more and look forward to your thoughts.

Picture:  One of the winners of the ASEAN and SAARC drawing competition for 2011. From UNISDR Flickr Account using a Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/isdr/6216677209/

Kurt Campbell Emphasizes India Look East Policy Before Asia Trip

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In his remarks yesterday before departing to Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell mentioned the importance Washington placed in encouraging India’s Look East policy, a strategy launched by former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1991 to boost ties with East Asia which has been gaining steam over the last few years. Campbell said:

Part of the U.S. approach to the Asia-Pacific region is a deeper dialogue with India and encouraging India’s “Look East” strategy and so we will be talking about specific initiatives that we will be taking with Delhi to support that effort as part of our Asia-Pacific consultations with them.

Campbell’s comments are in line with what other US officials have been saying recently. In her visit to India in June last year for instance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton encouraged India “not just to look East, but to engage East and act East”.

I’ve emphasized the importance of India’s Look East Policy and its increasing momentum in several previous pieces, most recently here, but also here and here. There has been and will continue to be a lot of commentary on it this year because 2012 marks two decades of India-ASEAN relations, and both parties are commemorating it with a series of meetings that will end with one in New Delhi later in the year.

Let me just briefly quote a few paragraphs from a recent article I wrote on where I see India’s Look East Policy going with respect to Southeast Asia.

Launched in 1991 by then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, India’s “Look East” policy was long regarded by many as lacking in vision and substance. Yet as India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to mark two decades of formal relations later this year, there is much to celebrate. Given the recent advances New Delhi has made in its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors, as well as with ASEAN as an institution, both parties can proudly toast the progress achieved thus far. But they should also use the anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen ties further.

Despite these successes over the past few years, there are still several ways that India and its ASEAN partners can enhance relations even further. While improving commercial relations with Myanmar is an important step, infrastructure development and trade will always be limited unless New Delhi finds a long-term solution to the ethnic insurgencies that plague India’s northeast. Only by addressing that issue will Myanmar emerge as a true gateway for India into Southeast Asia. Much more can also be done to enhance India’s trade with ASEAN nations more generally, which is expected to grow to a modest $70 billion…

WPR articles are often fully available only to subscribers, but you can read parts of it here.

Where Are Sino-Indian Border Negotiations Heading?

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The border dispute between India and China is one of the major flashpoints between the two countries that many worry about. In light of recently cited progress on border negotiations, I wrote a piece about a week or so ago for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief incorporating developments in both China and India from the last few years as well as other related shifts. Here is the first paragraph, but you can read the full thing here.

On March 6, China and India operationalized a coordination agreement to avert conflict along their contested border. The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, as the agreement is officially termed, was first broached by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a visit to India in December 2010, and officially formed during the 15th round of border talks between the two sides in New Delhi from January 15 to January 17 this year. After last week’s two-day meeting, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the mechanism would help in “minimizing” or “bridging” differences between the two countries, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement declaring that “positive progress” had been made to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border (Indian Express, March 9; Xinhua, March 6). Deep underlying tensions and rapid buildups of  military and infrastructure along the border by both sides however threaten to slow the already glacial progress being made in Sino-Indian border negotiations.

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