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By Jayashri Ramesh Sundaram

India’s engagement with the ASEAN nations began with the ‘Look East Policy’ of 1991. Today, India has 30 sectoral dialogue mechanisms and 7 ministerial-level interactions apart from annual summits with the ASEAN countries. The ‘Look East Policy’ launched by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was seen as an official initiative for the encouragement of trade links with individual partners and provision of foreign employment for India’s expanding workforce. The policy was followed by his successors Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, conceived the phrase ‘Act East policy’ to emphasise on strengthening of India-ASEAN cooperation and importance of multilateral organisations and summits.

This article will attempt to understand India’s engagement with the ASEAN region at multilateral summits in the past five years. Apart from economic engagement, India is culturally linked to the region. The East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), are some of the forums in the region where India has participated. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) are forums that comprise one or more ASEAN members where India is an active member.

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Jayashri Ramesh Sundaram is a Research Intern at CPPR Centre for Strategic Studies. She can be contacted at Jayashri.kramesh@gmail.com

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research

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