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The ‘Act East’ Diplomacy

Aiming to add new dimensions to his ‘Act East’ Policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a significant visit to three eastern countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore; as the trio signifies great bilateral interest in terms of Business and Strategic relations. Being the victims of terrorism, India and Indonesia expressed their concern over incessant terror activities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo while issuing a bilateral statement, emphasized on a well-framed strategy to battle out terrorism, they censured terrorism as a whole and stressed upon sharing of information as well as strengthening the intelligence links. Adding another feather to the cap of PM Modi’s ambitious ‘Act East’ Policy, both the countries agreed upon establishing links between Andaman Nicobar and Sumatra Islands to take commerce and tourism to a new high.

However, the visit to Malaysia and Singapore was not less significant as India has kept Malaysia on the top of its Act East Policy. And, the fact was borne out by PM Modi’s bilateral meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohammad in Malaysia, though he stayed there for a few hours. Therefore, being a strategic partner of India, Malaysia has, for decades, enjoyed a cordial stance of India on the bilateral front.

In addition, China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region alongside ASEAN countries has made India to tread cautiously and tone up its strategic ties with countries having a stake in Indian Ocean region. During his Singapore visit, PM held comprehensive discussions on trade, investment, and innovation, through strategic issues remained the cynosure of bilateral talks.

India’s Act East Policy also yielded the dividends when Indonesia gave out a plenary strategic partnership with India—a partnership that only China enjoyed with Indonesia thus far. India, too, has made such agreement only with Indonesia when it comes to Indo-Pacific region, which has set a new benchmark in India-Indonesia ties. Both the countries stressed upon the discipline to abide by the UN code of conduct for movements in the ocean region, sending out a clear message to China’s proliferating dominance in the South China Sea that has made waves not just for ASEAN countries but even the USA.

Following last year’s strategic dialogue among four countries – India, Japan, Australia, and America, now India, Indonesia, and Australia are all set to hold their first trilateral strategic dialogue in October this year. Act East Policy viz nailing down the relations with South-east Asian countries first gained the importance in Manmohan Singh govt. but then it couldn’t gain more ground than business relations. The current NDA govt. has added strategic dimensions to that policy to set off the bilateral ties beyond trade and investment.

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