This volume examines the potential for strengthening the
economic relations between India and members of the ASEAN, as
well as the manner in which structural problems facing the
Indian economy could undermine these relations. The various
essays also seek to draw some lessons from the Asian financial
compulsions, Isabelle Saint Mezard has convincingly argued that
the ‘Look East Policy’ was a "strategy to deal with
both regionalism and globalisation" that were evolving
simultaneously in the early days of the post-Cold War period.
India’s position was made more vulnerable by the decline in
the influence of earlier "trans-regional multilateral fora
such as the Group of 77, UNCTAD and NAM". The resumption of
the integration process of the EU and the negotiations for NAFTA
and APEC gave India the impression that it was in danger of
isolation in the global economy, says Mezard.
Mukul Asher, Rahul
Sen and Sadhna Srivastava point out that India is not a
"direct competitor for ASEAN export-led economies,
particularly in the manufacturing sector" and "ASEAN’s
limited domestic market" makes India, with its huge
consumer market, a viable economic partner. What is lacking is
detailed analysis of this aspect, which would have added to the
significance of the book.
complementarity, Atul Sarma and Pradeep Mehta point out the
existing mismatch between "demand structure and supply
conditions" and suggest a corrective path based on
"right set of trade promotional initiatives" "for
several complementary products were not traded at all between
them and wherever traded, their market presence was mostly
Baladas Ghoshal in
his analysis of the Indian diaspora argues that the creation of
a "borderless nation, linked by blood" needs a strong
and "resurgent India". He feels that the NRI community
needs networking and a strong global organisation so as to
benefit from each other’s strengths and contribute to the
resources of the mother country.
What catches ones
attention is the shrill warning by Manmohan Agarwal and Dipankar
Sengupta: "There is no economy that has invested heavily
enough in India to have a stake in the stability of the rupee.
Alternatively, important economic powers might conjecture that
assistance should not be provided, as an India weakened
economically after a currency crisis, might be more willing to
India is still
fine-tuning its ‘Look East Policy’ of which BIMST-EC
(Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand – Economic
Cooperation) at the sub-regional level and ASEAN and IOR-ARC
(Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation) at
the regional level form important parts.
countries within the ASEAN and outside have attempted to limit
India’s area of influence to South Asia. A focus on this
aspect would have enriched the readers about political realities
emphasis of the book is rightly on the economic aspect of India’s
‘Look East Policy’, it would be short-sighted to see India’s
‘Look East Policy’ in purely economic terms. The essence, no
doubt, is economic, but geopolitical focus has and will continue
to have a predominant role in India’s evolving relationship
with the nations of South-East Asia and those of the Far East.
India and the
nations of South-East Asia have much to learn from each other.
An efficient work culture has become part of the culture of
South-East Asia while democracy and liberal tradition have yet
to take root there. On the contrary, the largest democracy in
the world has still to imbibe their work culture if the economic
relationship between the two regions is to go beyond rhetoric.