AuthorDutt, Sagarika


Author: Prof Dr Tridib Chakraborti and Dr Mohor Chakraborty

Published by: KW Publishers Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 2018, 337pp, US$35.68.

The purpose of the book is to discuss and analyse India's 'Look East' policy, which was officially inaugurated in 1991 following the adoption of India's New Economic Policy (NEP) aimed at the liberalisation of the Indian economy. The 'Look East' policy was rechristened the 'Act East' policy by the Modi government in 2014, to send out the message that they are still firmly committed to it. The book's main focus is on the institutional dimensions of this policy, which sought to promote India's relations with ASEAN. India's interest in ASEAN was explained by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 11th East Asia Summit held in Laos in 2016. In India's view, 'ASEAN will continue to lead and remain central to efforts aimed at greater regional integration and cooperation'.

The book begins with an introduction that explains India's historical links with the South-east Asian countries. Trade and mercantile relations, as well as migration and the spread of Indian cultural influences, made India a part of the South-east Asian region. The colonial period erased a lot of India's cultural imprint in the region but led to new forms of immigration, such as indentured labourers who worked in plantations and mines in the region and whose descendants today constitute a vibrant Indian diasporic community. Thus, Ambassador Sudhir T. Devare concurs that the roots of the Look East policy can be traced back to the 'civilisational contacts between India and the countries of Southeast Asia'.

The second chapter, on 'India's "Look East" Policy in the Post-Cold War Period: Ideas and Orientations', explains why the New Economic Policy had to be adopted. India was going through an economic slump which actually started in the mid-1980s, primarily because of the almost relentless worsening of its balance of payments position, triggered by an over-valued currency. The Gulf War made the financial crisis worse by increasing the import bill. The rising international price of oil and the loss of remittances from Indians in Iraq and Kuwait took a toll on India's foreign exchange reserves. India's external debt increased to US$72 billion, making it the third largest debtor nation after Brazil and Mexico.

By June 1991, India's foreign exchange reserves had declined to $600...

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