Connecting India’s East with the Indo-Pacific

Source– The post is based on the article “Connecting India’s East with the Indo-Pacific” published in The Hindu on 3rd December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Regional and global groupings affecting India interest

Relevance– Understanding the concept of Indo-pacific

News– The article explains the construct of the Indo-Pacific from the perspective of north-eastern India.

Since 2018, India’s ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ policies have moved into the phase of Indo-Pacific policy and strategy. But the New Delhi interpretation of Indo-Pacific is different from the perceptions of this policy in Northeastern and eastern India.

How should the construct of the Indo-Pacific include the perspective of the north-east?

Security aspects– Security conditions have improved significantly in recent times. However, the core issues behind the insurgency have remained unresolved. The way forward was to address them substantially and accelerate the pace of development.

There exists a contrast in security assessments of the authorities and others.

The official perspective was that the phenomena of smuggling, drug trafficking, transnational border crime, insurgent activity, and the influx of refugees represented serious non-traditional threats. China was viewed as a ‘constant player’ behind these nefarious activities.

Local communities have concerns over the insensitive handling of those engaged in lawful exchanges with the neighboring countries.

A balanced view indicates that considerable scope exists for more effective and people-sensitive border management in the future.

Developmental aspects– The Northeast is on the right path to economic development. There is a need for improvement in roads linking northeastern towns. Job creation for thousands of graduates produced by local universities is required.

Manipur needs to be promoted as the hub of medical tourism for other Indian States and neighbours such as Myanmar. The State’s research and development facilities to leverage the region’s biodiversity should be expanded.

Accelerated development requires increased investment by Indian corporates and foreign investors as well as better management.

Why is there a need to focus upon the cultural aspect of Indo-pacific construct?

There is a need to move beyond geopolitics and geo-economics. Neighbours should focus on “the geo-cultural dimension” of the Indo-Pacific. Expanded people-related cooperation would lead to wider acceptance of the Indo-Pacific and consolidation of the Quad.

Shared culture, history and mutual social threads that tie the region with India are also an important component towards fostering regional cooperation”.

How member states should consolidate the construct of Indo-pacific?

First, the growing significance of the Bay of Bengal region permeates the thinking of scholars. The concept of the Indo-Pacific seems distant. Therefore, member-states need to invest more in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation to enhance its effectiveness.

Second, for implementing India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, voices from Northeast and eastern India must be heard.

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