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Where ‘Act East’ meets Indo-Pacific: Mapping India’s Southeast Asia engagement / Rahul MISHRA

Asia’s Post-Pandemic Order and Integration: Outlook of ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific at Crossroads

Where ‘Act East’ meets Indo-Pacific : Mapping India’s Southeast Asia engagement
Rahul MISHRA, Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya (Malaysia)

Launch in 2014, the ‘Act East’ policy, known as the ‘Look East’ in its previous avatar, aims to comprehensively engage India with the Southeast Asian (and wider Indo-Pacific) region at political, strategic, cultural, connectivity, and people-to-people levels. This paper maps key achievements of the Act East policy and analyses its role in fulfilling India’s Indo-Pacific vision, as articulated by PM Modi in his 2018 Shangri La Speech. Shedding strategic inhibitions is an important component of the policy, which also intends to build stronger defence trade ties, and strengthen sub-regional and regional infrastructure and connectivity linkages. The Indo-Pacific construct is bringing about a major shift in the way ASEAN and its stakeholders perceive the region and its dynamics. Despite China’s lukewarm response, the support for the Indo-Pacific is gathering momentum with India, France, Germany, EU, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and the US acting as its leading proponents. Unlike the Asia-Pacific, a key feature of the Indo-Pacific is that it brings India to the Centre stage of regional dynamics. India’s contributions to the Indo-Pacific regional order are normative in nature, and its regional positioning is being strengthened by a range of minilateral/trilateral partnerships.


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Session 2 / Southeast Asia between India and China : Reimagining Asia and Regional Indo-Pacific Order
Chair : Prof Surichai WUN’GAEO, Professor Emeritus (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)

The Indo-Pacific area with important economic and cultural interactions between the two oceans go back millennia, long before the colonial era. Against tremendous changes in the post-colonial and –Cold War periods, the late 20th century’s debate has been recentered on the Asia-Pacific. And again in the early 21st century, the Indo-Pacific has also added as a new framework for regional order. The increasing geographical connection of East and Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, has helped to advance the Indo-Pacific as a new world’s economic and strategic concept. This session focusses on the two Asian giants, their expanding economic capabilities and strategic interests, and on the Indo-Pacific area for their interactions. Both have increased their influence in Southeast Asia through the “Maritime Silk Road” by President Xi Jinping since 2013 and the “Act East” agenda by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It also highlights the ASEAN’s strategy to assert itself as a major actor of this new regional order.

“Asia’s Post-Pandemic Order and Integration : Outlook of ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific at Crossroads” is an international conference organized by The Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC-CNRS) with the ASEAN Studies Center (Chulalongkorn University) in Bangkok, and the ASEAN-India Centre (AIC), RIS in New Delhi.
8-9 July 2021 - Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok