NewsIndiaTimes – that’s all you need to know Cover Story 5 News India Times January 26, 2018 By Ela Dutt hat 10 leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) occupy seats on the ros- trum as the parade of India's cul- tural and economic diversity, and military might passes by with music and color on New Delhi's Rajpath this Republic Day this Jan. 26, is a testament to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Act East' poli- cy's ambitious agenda of building bridges across the oceans. Their presence also signals the measure of India's economic growth and the result- ing regional and global importance, recog- nized in both the East and theWest. The optics of the presidents, prime min- isters and a Sultan at the nationally tele- vised Republic Day, marks a "big step for- ward" for India's looking East policy, says Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's a gift the Modi administration has of using spec- tacle in furthering India's foreign policy," Dhume told News India Times. This is the first time South East Asia is being so prominently displayed in India, he says. The invitation to the 10 ASEAN leaders is not just symbolic, concurrs Anubhav Gupta, assistant director with the Asia Society Policy Institute in NewYork. It sig- nals a relationship in which ASEAN and India are willing to invest heavily, both politically and diplomatically. More than a thousand years of history between India and the ASEAN countries is being seemingly infused with new life, geared in this modern and technological age, toward economic, strategic, national security, environment, and connectivity, building on a foundation of historical cul- tural commonalities. "ASEAN is central to India's 'Act East' Policy. And, our ties are a source of balance and harmony in the region," Modi said on Sept. 8, 2016, noting that the engagement was driven not just by shared civilizational heritage, but "also driven by our common strategic priorities of securing our societies and bringing peace, stability and prosperi- ty to the region." T The 10 ASEAN leaders invited to the Republic Day spectacular marks the futuristic 21st century boost the "Act East" policy gives to India's nearly thousand-year ties to this region Eastward, Ho! PM Narendra Modi attends 14th ASEAN - India summit at Vientiane, Laos. Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into office, he envisioned a pro- active policy toward East Asia - 'Act East' advancing the existing 'Look East' policy. In reply to a Lok Sabha question on what the 'Act East' policy entailed, the then Minister of State for the external Affairs Gen. Dr. V. K. Singh (Retd.) provided this information to the Indian Parliament on Dec. 23, 2015 India's Act East Policy focusses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia- Pacific region. The policy which was origi- nally conceived as an economic initiative, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation. India has upgraded its rela- tions to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, apart from ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), India has also been actively engaged in regional fora such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Act East Policy has placed empha- sis on India-ASEAN cooperation in our domestic agenda on infrastructure, manu- facturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities, Make in India and other ini- tiatives. Connectivity projects, coopera- tion in space, S&T and people-to-people exchanges could become a springboard for regional integration and prosperity. The Objective of ''Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilat- eral, regional and multilateral levels there- by providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region including Arunanchal Pradesh with other countries in our neighbourhood. The North East of India has been a priority in our Act East Policy (AEP). AEP provides an interface between North East India including the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the ASEAN region. Various plans at bilateral and regional levels include steady efforts to develop and strengthen connectivity of Northeast with the ASEAN region through trade, culture, people-to-people contacts and physical infrastructure (road, airport, telecommunication, power, etc.). Some of the major projects include Kaladan Multi- modal Transit Transport Project, the India- Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, Rhi-Tiddim Road Project, Border Haats, etc. The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 has been adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete ini- tiatives and areas of cooperation along the three pillars of political-security, econom- ic and socio-cultural. India continues with stepped up efforts to forge closer partner- ship with concerned regional and Multilateral organisation such as ASEAN, ARF, EAS, BIMSTEC, ACD, MCG and IORA. On the Civilizational front, Buddhist and Hindu links could be energized to develop new contacts and connectivity between people. On Connectivity, special efforts are being made to develop a coherent strategy, particularly for linking ASEAN with our North East. Measures, including building transport infrastructure, encour- aging airlines to enhance connectivity in the region, contacts between academic and cultural institutions are underway. Our economic engagement with ASEAN has been stepped up – regional integra- tion and implementation of projects are priorities. The ASEAN-India Agreement on Trade in Service and Investments has entered into force for India and seven ASEAN countries from 1 July 2015. The ASEAN-India Trade Negotiating Committee has been tasked to undertake a review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement. India has also invited ASEAN member states to participate in the International Solar Alliance which it has co-launched with France on 30 November 2015 at COP-21. On strategic issues, we have increasing convergence on security interests with key partners both in bilateral and multilateral format. Closer cooperation in combating terrorism, col- laborating for peace and stability in the region and promotion of maritime securi- ty based on international norms and laws are being pursued. Press Information Bureau Government of India Ministry of External Affairs India's 'Act East' Policy Continued On Page 6 The Guests Brunei: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Brunei Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen Indonesia: President Joko Widodo Laos: Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith Malaysia: Prime Ministers Najib Razak Myanmar: President Htin Kyaw Philippines: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Singapore: President Halima Yacob Thailand: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha Vietnam: Prime Minister Nguyen Xuân Phúc