[Academic] India’s Growing Importance in Asia: Look East Policy

#India gak cuma tentang Bollywood en kari :). Dalam postingan kali ini, ku-copaskan tulisanku seputar kebijakan India tentang “Look East Policy”. Selamat membaca 🙂

India’s Growing Importance in Asia: Look East Policy


After the end of Cold War and the fall of Soviet Union, India was change its foreign policy orientation with a policy called “Look East Policy”. Look East Policy shows India’s efforts to develop extensive economic and strategic relations with Southeast Asia countries for creating and maintaining regional power in this area, as well as to counter China’s strategic influence (not only in economic, but also in military and security aspects). In 1990’s, there was a global trend towards regionalism and the increase of China’s influence in Southeast Asia, so that India need to swift their previous policy towards this region.

One aspect that should be understood very well about India’s Look East Policy is its geopolitical situation (Chanda and Gopalan, 2009). India faces big challenge to create and develop relations with its neighbor countries in South Asia and West Asia. For West Asia and Middle East, these regions has unstable political situation, while South Asia, Central Asia and Afghanistan lack the potential for cooperation (Hong, 2007). The India’s failure in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) because of the lack of political trust and economic progress, interestingly are used by China to build closer relations with India’s neighbors such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma (Hong, 2007).

To grow up bigger, India needs to build relations with more powerful and stronger economic potential. As from security point of view, India has serious problem in some disputed area with Pakistan and China which can change the shape of South Asia.


Although India is still relatively weak in terms of economic and political power, it seems that this Look East Policy is quite offensive in term of India’s efforts on spreading its influence. Zhao Hong mentioned that India realized that if it wanted to have a significant role as a major power, India should complete its transition from a “South Asian regional power” to an “Asian major power” and eventually become a “major world power”. India also must develop political and economic relations with ASEAN and use them as a bridge with which to connect itself to East Asia (Hong, 2007). ASEAN countries realized that with the rise of India, they can reduce their dependence on Japan, the Western countries, and China in trade and economic relations.

With that reasons, India established some bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Southeast Asia countries, such as; with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV), BIMSTEC, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. India also trying to become ASEAN’s dialogue partner in many forums such as ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN – India Summit, ASEAN+6, East Asia Summit, and ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity.

One of interesting part from Hong analysis is about the impact of the India factor on the future of Sino-ASEAN relations. He said that this condition may well depend upon the extent to which India’s economic potential can be translated into political and strategic influence. Balance-of power politics will continue to inform Sino-India rivalry in Myanmar, Vietnam, and other ASEAN countries.This India’s policy also related to the US, where China was also concerned that the United States might manipulate India’s evolving relations with ASEAN in order to contain China or “smother” China’s attempt to exert its influence in the region (Hong, 2007).


Hong, Zhao. 2007. India and China: Rivals or Partners in Southeast Asia?, Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 29, No. 1 (2007), pp. 121-42.

Author: Sunu Family

We are an Indonesian family living in Bonn, Germany since 2017. Our family consists of Ayah (Radit), Umi (Retno/ Chiku), Kakak (Zahra), and Adek (Faiq). We will share our experience living in Germany, our trips, thoughts, Umi's related research on her study, etc.

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