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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                 Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)


CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao

Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta


Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)


India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 


" Vision and Realityby Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman


Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)


" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  


"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob


Seminar Summary Report


  As compiled by Ms Meera Baindur, a doctoral research scholar, National Institute of Advanced Studies, (NIAS) Bangalore,  with guidance from Dr. Arvind Kumar.

  22 September 2007;  IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1


            In continuation of its objective to promote political, economic and social exchanges with neighbouring countries, Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars to review India’s security environment and policies that relate to political, strategic and economic aspects of the region.

             The centre organized a seminar on “Impediments to India’s Look East Policy: Suggested Remedies” on 22nd Sept 2007 . The event was chaired by Shri A P Venkateswaran. The main presentations were made by:


"India's Look-East Policy: Visions and Reality" by

Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd), Former Ambassador to China and former convener of the National Security Advisory Board

"Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies" by 

Shri. D.S. Rajan former Director, Cabinet Secretariat, GOI, current Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies

"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policy" by                                                                                 Vice Admiral (Retd) P J Jacob, Former vice Chief of Naval Staff and former member National Security Advisory Board.

  This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.

India's Look-East Policy: Visions and Reality

by Ambassador C.V. Ranganathan

Shri.C.V. Ranganathan described the centrality of India ’s position in Nehru’s Asian worldview with a quote from the book Discovery of India (1944), where Nehru foresees India becoming the centre of economic and political activity in the Indian Ocean area, in South East Asia , right up to the Middle East . Other visions of Asian unity such as Ho Chi Minh’s statements to build an Asian unity in 1945, excluding China and Japan were also mentioned. The developments such as the Asian relations conference and the 18 nations conference on Indonesia as well as the Bandung conference in 1955 were inspired by many factors that brought Asian nations together. Important among these factors were raising of consciousness about Asian identity, nationalism, culture in postcolonial context and the decline of the use of a  colonial lens to view the Asian cultures. It was pointed out that India ’s “Look East” policy was thus a late successor to earlier visions.

The Asian Perceptions of India in South East Asia from the late 1950s- late1980s and their removal from the early 1990s were described.   It was pointed out that from late 1950s, there was a long estrangement between India and China , culminating in the boundary conflict in 1962. However, after the visit of Rajiv Gandhi to China in 1988, there was an improvement in Sino-Indian relations that both profited from and contributed to better relations between India and   South East Asian neighbours, whose comfort level with India increased with the trend of improving relations with China.

The other major factor, which heavily influenced South East Asian perceptions, was Indo-Soviet Union relations. Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanisthan and India’s ambivalent attitude to this event as well as the pro-Vietnam attitude after Vietnamese defeat of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, reinforced perceptions that India was a global partner of Soviet Union.

The contribution of Shri. A. P.Venkateswaran, in his capacity as Secretary in MEA to initiate diplomatic talks with Singapore and other S.E.Asian couterparts helped in improving matters. The Cambodian crisis was used by ASEAN to establish its political identity as an international political grouping- a player on the international stage. Other factors which helped were Gorbachev’s ascendancy and his welcome initiatives towards China and S.E.Asia.

 Continuing to trace the events that followed, It was reiterated that after the breakup of former Soviet Union (1990-91), ASEAN and other nations realised the geographical importance of India and its possibility of being a major player in South Asia . But at the same time, there was disappointment in India with progress in SAARC. There was also the perception of India as mired in a permanent dispute with Pakistan . Other countries saw India in a straightjacket situation with very little to contribute towards regional cooperation. One  of the important effects of 11th September, 2001 was the realisation that India ’s neighborhood in its west could be an epicenter of terrorism in Asia . This event led to the realization of the interconnectedness of security. Followed by USA’s unilateralist actions in Iraq and subsequent difficulties faced by it there ASEAN nations realized that international relations cannot be pursued along any single axis as in past years and that ASEAN’Ssecurity and stability required it to involve major countries and many big powers.

            The domestic situation during the Command Economy and the License Raj Era in India , demonstrated the close interconnectedness between  domestic policies and their baneful influence on external relations.  India was seen in a poor light when compared with the development of Asian Tigers and China ’s economic growth. The  1991 financial crisis in India’s foreign exchange, which equaled  only two weeks of imports’ then led to economic reforms and liberalization a process which is more vigorously pursued today to make India adapt to globalization although we are only too aware of the mounting social deficits in India’s growth. The sequential rise of China followed by India today is the big story and ASEAN seeks to leverage their growth and improvements in their relations for the benefit of ASEAN.

         India went through a long period of “probation” before it was facilitated to develop institutional links with ASEAN as a regional body. The major role of Singapore in promoting India ’s relations with ASEAN from early nineties was acknowledged with a special mention of the role of former Singapore Prime Minister Mr. Goh Chok Tong. During this period, through the adoption of different emphasis for each of the nations, India ’s individual relationship with nations in the South East was built up slowly. Details of the various areas of collaboration in building relations with ASEAN nations were mentioned The useful role of organizations,  Confederation of Indian Industries followed by Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in establishing good personal relations with Singapore leadership cannot be underestimated. This caused the listing of Indian Firms in Singapore Stock Exchange and tie ups with Singapore firms by big Indian Majors. From 1992 India began to be included in the institutional processes of ASEAN when India was invited as sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN for  trade, investments, Science & Technology and tourism. A Joint coordination committee between India and ASEAN was formed in this regard.

It was pointed out that 1996 was a landmark year because India became a full dialogue partner of ASEAN and a formal member of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) at Jakarta Summit . India was brought on par with USA, EU, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Australia with consultation on issues concerning regional security and other political issues. This was the second phase, marked by deepening institutional bonds set out in many formal agreements. In 2002, India participated at the Summit level at the Phnom Penh Summit . At the  Bali Summit in 2003 three important documents were signed:

  • Framework agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between India and ASEAN (signed by 10 Heads of states and Government, and Atal Behari Vajpayee) in which India and ASEAN have formally agreed to set up FTA by 2011. This follows similar Agreements between ASEAN and China , Japan and S. Korea .
  • Instrument of accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia which is a basic political foundational document, a necessary criterion to intensify dialogue in political, security and other strategic issues.
  • A joint Indo-ASEAN Declaration on combating terrorism that enables information  and intelligence sharing as well as aspects of law enforcement .

       In 2004 at the Vietnam summit, India and ASEAN signed two documents: “Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity” and “Plan of action for to implement the India – ASEAN partnership”. Both these provide a conceptual and executive framework for developments in diverse areas and are road maps for the future.  With a description of other notable bilateral Agreements such as the Indo-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA In 2005,) and framework bilateral FTA agreement with Thailand , the progress made in the area of bilateral relations with the East was considered positive by the speaker.

Currently the East Asian Summit Process started in 2005, has now the format of ASEAN 10+3 (China, Japan and Korea) + 3 (India, Australia, New Zealand).The speaker described India’s PM Manmohan Singh’s vision of this process as contributing to an “Arc of Prosperity” where there would be the free flow of trade, investments, ideas through greater connectivity between India, SE Asia and East Asia. Further in this regard, the second EAS in 2007 decided to adopt an agenda for regional cooperation on energy security. It was posited that India ’s evolving relation with ASEAN is a sum of its agreements with individual members and India enjoys differentiated relations with the group. With some the emphasis is economic, with some it is defence, with some it is connectivity between India and S.E.Asia and with some it is energy resources. With a few it is a combination of each of these.

The list the Achievements of India ’s look east policy was presented which included the following points given below:

  • There was Systematic institutionalisation of economic and trade interactions substantiated by figures of India’s total trade in 2006 with East Asian countries which has shown impressive increases
  • There were indications of broadening fields of cooperation particularly in areas of defense as well as co-operation and intensification of dialogues on political and security issues.
  • Prospects of greater connectivity through sub-regional institutions such as in the areas of the energy field, where Indian companies are involved in Myanmar (along with Korea and Vietnam ) and in sub-regional developments such as BIMSTeC (now renamed as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic cooperation). This initiative was elaborated by the speaker by giving greater details about agreements such as a framework agreement on BIMSTEC Free Trade Area.

A note of urgency  about  India ’s Look East policy was emphasized if is to realize its full potential.That is  the importance given to India ’s Northeastern regions. Some of the progress in this direction was the creation of road and transport links between the North East Areas and Eastern Neighbours. Notable among these efforts were the Road Link between Manipur- Myanmar Tamu Kalemayo Road , feasibility study of Manipur – Myanmar rail link, and other road links between India Myanmar . The larger project of Asian connectivity was proved possible by the Asian car rally which covered 8000 km from Guwahati that crossed Myanmar , Thailand , Laos , Vietnam , Cambodia , Malaysia , Singapore , and reached Indonesia . Quoting the words of Goh Chok Tuong who said “car rally broke the psychological barrier that India was a distant Western neighbour,” the speaker was sure that there were possibilities for further regional cooperation. In areas of financial commitment to projects of connectivity, India was not too far behind as evidenced by India’s credit of USD 57 million for upgrading Yangon- Mandalay section of the railways and India’s investments and commitments to cooperation in education and human resources tourism and communications. The ambitious India-Myanmar-Thailand road project needs to be realized at an early date.The importance of India ’s North and East connectivity to S.E.Asia needs emphasis in the context of removing the feelings of alienation from mainstream India which is prevalent in those regions.

 In conclusion, it was said that India had a responsibility to its eastern neighbours in its own enlightened interest. Regional cooperation to succeed must be based on the principle of inclusiveness-not exclusiveness. While India ’s growing institutional links with ASEAN have bound it in a web with ASEAN nations by creating a structure that binds India to its obligations and commitments in various fields, implementation will have to be satisfactory. India ’s credibility that it is serious about its ‘Look East’ policy will be questioned if its delivery systems are found wanting.This is where China should not score over India , by default as it were. ASEAN has made investments in India in the game of global real-politik and it is up to India to fully reciprocate and optimize the goodwill for India in this vital region for India .

Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies

by Shri. D.S.  Rajan, Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies.

The presentation started with a quotation from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that India’s Look East policy is not merely an external economic policy but, it also marks a strategic shift in India’s vision of the world and its place in the evolving global economy. The insights into the progress achieved so far in the implementation of India ’s Look East policy since early 1990s were highlighted. In the first phase of its implementation, the main target had been to create links with the ASEAN, which had economic, political and strategic importance in the Asia-Pacific region and a potential to become a major trade and investment partner for India . It was projected that in the second stage, the scope of the policy would be extended to include the Far Eastern and Pacific regions, facilitating India’s enhanced links with a host of countries - China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Pacific island states.

The benefits of the Look East policy in terms of both domestic economy and external economic relations were outlined. The building blocks of India ’s Look East policy such as The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi- Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC, established in 1997), act as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia , he added. India’s effort is to bring together such mutually beneficial partnerships under a web of a Pan-Asian Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA) for building an Asian Economic Community (AEC) which would mark the formation of the third pole of the world economy, after the European Union (EU) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The Look East policy has facilitated dialogue from political and security perspectives between India and East Asian nations through summits with ASEAN and the EAS meetings which are being held regularly and India is being progressively integrated with the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to promote regional security cooperation.

On the question of the response of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to India’s Look East policy, it was stressed that Beijing’s emerging perceptions would have far reaching implications for the future course of the policy. An analysis of the policy statements made by the two sides showed the areas of convergences and divergences between China and India on the Look East policy. Points of convergences were that both China and India agree that a harmonious, peaceful and prosperous East Asia can be built with ASEAN as driving force and that non- East Asian countries could take part in the regional integration process. However, on the matter of participation by non-East Asian countries, there was a subtle difference in China ’s stand. Prior to Kuala Lampur EAS gathering in 2005, China , according to reports, lobbied hard to stop India ’s membership. When the lobbying failed, thanks to the stand taken by most of the East Asian nations, Beijing chose the next best option, with its attempt to divide the EAS membership into two blocs- ‘Core’ states with China leading inside the 10 plus 3, as main channel for building ‘East Asia Community’ and the three peripheral states of India, Australia and New Zealand. China ’s reservations were clearly visible when Premier Wen Jiabao emphasized the concept of ‘ East AsiaEast for  East Asians’, but with
“full consideration to reasonable interests in the region of non-East Asian countries”. The term “full consideration” implied a secondary status to the three EAS partners from outside the region. It was inferred that China ’s approach appeared to be based on a premise that the presence of India and US allies like Australia and New Zealand , in the EAS may not serve its aim to dominate the EAS process.

There are other points concerning Sino-Indian divergences on the matter of regional integration. China’s  heavy emphasis on the role of ASEAN + 3 with the PRC as the ‘main channel’ for East Asia cooperation, contrasts  with  India’s 10 + 6 (ASEAN plus 3 plus India, Australia and New Zealand) approach. New Delhi does not visualize a ‘main channel’ status for itself. Secondly, on  the issue of  regional security order, India’s prescription for a ‘polycentric’ security concept for East Asia, in effect disallows any country (such as China)  to dominate  the regional security architecture. The concept, to say the least, visualises some space for India in the architecture whenever it is established. China has so far not commented on India ’s ‘polycentric’ vision. Its strategic experts have however indicated that Beijing is not worried about India’s security intentions at the moment, by assessing that India, despite its Look East policy, will always have limitations in interfering in regional hotspots like Taiwan, South China Sea islands and North Korea and that as such, the countries in East Asia may see India’s power limited to the Indian Ocean only, rather than Asia Pacific. At the same time, Beijing is showing signs that it is becoming alive to India ’s potentials in terms of security projection in regions surrounding China . India’s increasing role in China’s neighbourhood by strengthening  ties with Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in the fields of economy,  politics and security , is being noticed by the Chinese media along with allegation that  India’s Look East policy is geared to hedge against China through developing military relations with the Pry’s surrounding countries. They especially mentioned about India’s strategy to monitor China’s missile systems from Mongolia and the port calls by Indian naval vessels in Vietnam, Philippines and the expected visit of India’s aircraft carrier to Malacca Straits and the Pacific, subsequent to the Bay of Bengal Joint Naval Exercise, held in September 2007.

 Thirdly,  China‘s apprehensions, as brought out by Premier Wen, about possible efforts in future to some what exclude it from or weaken its leading role in East Asia integration, have highlighted the  compulsions( for e.g.  arising from unsolved sea and territorial disputes) being felt by Beijing ,  are not being seen in the cases of India and other EAS nations. As yet another point of divergence, the presentation brought to the attention of the seminar participants that the Government of China and its leaders were maintaining a silence over India ’s proposal for formation of an Asian Economic Community (AEC). But signals that China is wary of the AEC proposal have appeared with its State-controlled media commenting that no country in the region, for their own reasons, is welcoming the AEC proposal. Through its media, Beijing had also strongly attacked Japan ’s proposal (August 2006) for a Pan Asian trade bloc, consisting of ASEAN plus 6 nations including India , as a move by Tokyo to dominate East Asia . What comes out clear is that China may not accept any economic grouping which limits its leading role.

            To what extent China ’s perceptional differences on India ’s Look East policy will affect Sino-Indian relations formed a major part of the presentation. A conclusion was that Beijing viewed the policy as a challenge to its intention to play a central role in the Asia-Pacific region. Coming at a time when China , through its media, is raising suspicions over India ’s moving closer to the West, its emerging perceptions become important pointers for India . The  media have strongly criticised the US-India  nuclear and defence cooperation and perceived  the recent developments such as the Japanese proposal for a ‘quadrilateral’ democracy initiative involving New Delhi, Canberra, Washington and Tokyo, and the five-nation (India, US, Japan, Australia and Singapore) Naval drill in the Bay of Bengal in September 2007 as directed against China. It was clarified in the presentation that though these were media fears, they deserved due notice as anything printed in Chinese Media had the tacit approval of the authorities. It was also observed  that the PRC has chosen to move closer to Russia in order to use the ties with Moscow as counter-weight to US presence in the region.

It was observed in the presentation that China at this stage marked by its perceived need for a peaceful periphery in the interest of the country’s modernisation, will not be an obstacle to, but grudgingly accept India’s Look East policy, based on its assumption that India is still a weak player in terms of trade and security in East Asia. It was predicted that Beijing ’s strategy for the present was likely be to compete or cooperate with India depending on the circumstances. A competitive element may arise in the form of each side attempting to capture East Asian markets.

In the concluding part of the presentation, it was suggested that India could respond to China ’s sensitivities. New Delhi ’s policy to address Beijing ’s doubts on the implications of Look East Policy should be constructive, without ganging up with others against China . Both in the areas of economy and security, it would be in New Delhi’s interest to take certain pro-active remedial steps aimed at reassuring China. Bilateral economic relations should be strengthened and the process for signing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement between the two sides deserves speeding up. Also, for its Look East Policy, which is already paying dividends, India should garner further support from the ASEAN, China’s surrounding nations and Japan, thus making its position stronger to neutralise China’s apparent doubts on India’s Look East policy. India-ASEAN FTA agreement needs to be concluded at the earliest. The US-India civil nuclear cooperation and defence agreements have introduced a new element to India ’s Look East policy, which should be exploited by India for entering the APEC as a member. China, an APEC member, can help in this regard, provided India can assure that such agreements are not anti-China.

It was claimed in the presentation that the  long-term scenario was fraught with uncertainties due to the power play already on between China and Japan in East Asia on the issue of regional leadership. South Korean power too is on the rise and the entry of India into this equation, could cause the regional situation to become further complex, posing tough challenges to the China-Japan-India triangular relations. It would then rest on the three nations, as major players in Asia , to act responsibly together for guaranteeing peace and stability in Asia . 

Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policy

by Vice Admiral P.J. Jacob

The genesis of India’s ‘Look East” policy which began in 1992 to the end of the cold war, after the collapse of the Soviet Union was traced. This policy was intended to be more than just a foreign policy alternative as it was meant to provide a development avenue as well, in synchronisation with the globalisation and the resurgence of Asia as an economic powerhouse.

          The views of the current and previous Prime Ministers were quoted and their interest in giving due importance to the role of India in the region was highlighted. Though there were attempts to keep India’s presence active in the region through ASEAN, it was in the 21st century that India had given a big push to this policy by becoming a summit level partner of ASEAN in 2002 and getting involved in some regional initiatives such as the BIMSTEC, the Ganga Mekong Cooperation the East Asia Summit (EAS) in December, 2005.

After this brief introduction, it was stressed that maritime diplomacy should now be an essential component of India’s ‘Look East’ policy. Regretting that India had paid insufficient attention her maritime policy over many centuries, it was reiterated that the natural direction for a nation seeking to establish itself as a ‘maritime’ power and as a major player on the global platform is to look outwards towards the sea. The attention India was now paying to this area was seen as being positive. India, it was felt, was in a position to greatly contribute to the safe movement and security of shipping along the SLOCs in the region by virtue of its unique geography. Exemplifying this, Vice Admiral P.J. Jacob related to the attentive audience interesting facts about India’s island territories that lie strategically across International Shipping Lanes of this region. With over one-hundred-thousand ships transiting carrying oil and other goods, it was important for India to ensure the safety and freedom of this seaborne trade. With growth of regional trade with countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as China, the significance of a major strategic maritime imperative could not be ignored.

          The changing environment of the world including the developing countries after the end of the cold war and current onset of Globalisation was considered important. The wide reaching impact of these changes in communications, transportation and technology has altered the social, economic and political environment. Though there was an increase in legitimate trade and business, the same environment has also become conducive for organised crime due to the intensification of networks of interaction, and interdependence.

This has led to nations in this region increasingly showing signs of interest in multilateral frameworks to build confidence and promote regional responses to economic, and, increasingly, political and security challenges.

          Speaking about the rationale for cooperation amidst diversity, the admiral pointed out that the maritime region to India’s East was home to vast geographical, historical and economic diversity, and it was an area where many differing cultures, religions, ideologies and political systems competed and struggled to survive or expand their own interests.  He was of the opinion that the network of bilateral and multilateral relationships within the region has frequently been strained and the task of confidence building, preventive diplomacy and crisis management has imposed considerable pressures on the Governments in the region. In recent years the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) have developed multilateralised and institutionalised regional security mechanisms at both the ministerial / official (First Track) and unofficial (Second Track) levels. it was suggested that Track – 1 initiative are imperative to formalise regional cooperation agreements and Second-track mechanisms could be useful for generating new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Besides the relationships between nations, organised crime such as trafficking, gun-running, fish-poaching and maritime piracy too has become a matter of growing concern especially in the Bay of Bengal, and the Straits of Malacca. Attention was drawn to various incidents of piracy and terrorism in the different shipping lanes and also speculated on the kinds of future scenarios of crime that could take place unless there is a shift in the security scenario in the region. Other disasters such as oil spillage occurring due to the possible terror attacks or a hijack of an offshore oil platform would result in crisis of unimaginable proportions. Another peacetime activity of the maritime power under India’s maritime policy should make provision for the creation and sustenance of international cooperation regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.  The Tsunami of 2004 and the recent Yogyakarta earthquake in Indonesia have demonstrated the importance of working towards multilateral interoperability at every stage, it was stressed. Many multinational and bilateral naval exercises have been successful, including the exercise in the Sea of Japan with the US and Japan, as well as the recent Malabar 07. Bilateral arrangements with Thailand and Indonesia have been successfully negotiated for joint coordinated patrols by the three navies in the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Malacca Straits. India’s willingness to contribute to the capacity building of the Littoral States in maritime security is demonstrated by the participation of Southeast Asian navies in the bi-annual MILAN exercises. In the area of development projects, a maritime dimension has been included such as the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Facility which envisages connectivity between Indian ports on the eastern seaboard and Sittwe Port in Myanmar, thereby providing an alternate route for transport of goods to North-East India.

          The distinguished audience was informed of the various regional cooperative ventures of the Indian navy which were already underway. The launch of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in February 2008 would provide a platform in which the large or small navies and maritime security agencies of the region could meet and discuss common issues that bear upon international security. It was also mentioned that dialogue in the ASEAN Regional Forum, of which India has been a member since 1996, now includes regular discussions on maritime security issues.

It was clarified that maritime power is not singularly about the Navy, the pivotal role, of maritime strategy in peacetime was also stressed. The traditional roles of the navy could be classified into four broad categories - policing, diplomatic, crisis and military. The merits of the naval force which had the characteristics of reach and endurance, the ability to threaten and apply force in a finely graduated way, and use of warships as diplomatic instruments unlike any other kind of armed force were highlighted. These roles are naturally weighted to meet the nations prevailing maritime interests. In the current environment, it was felt that the policing and diplomatic roles were more predominant.

          The fact of India having a formidable Navy in the region and how it could use the anti-terrorist or piracy platform as a rationale for cooperation and contribute towards peace and stability in the region was highlighted. In view of the prevailing environment, it was felt that the littorals had no alternative but to pledge their effort and assets to start the process of co-operation and the peaceful resolution of all disputes.

          The vision for a future of maritime cooperation not only with the countries of the region but inclusive of many global players such as, China, Japan, and the United States, and the ASEAN countries, together with Naval and Coast Guard presence was posited and the hope that “the web of relationships” would serve to act as a deterrent against maritime terrorism or piracy as well as provide a mechanism for the resolution of conflicts before they arise was expressed.

The various initiatives that could be taken by the countries both at the official (track 1) and the informal (track 2) levels were outlined.

These included

·        Increase the frequency and broaden the ambit of joint exercises which help in identifying solutions to problems of interoperability.

·        Addition of more participants and venues to the biennial “Milan” series of confluence meetings which provides a forum for formal and informal interactions, seminars and the like.

·        Versatility and impact provided by flag showing missions to be exploited to the fullest by allowing the navy to send ships to many more countries in the region without referral to the government.

·        Institutionalised approach to cooperation such as sharing of multilocational relief supplies in the event of natural calamities and environmental disasters.

·        Sharing of information and access to relevant databases including revenue intelligence, poaching, SAR, meteorology and oceanology and the like and cooperation in terms of training and technology.

·        Strive towards common legislation for dealing with offenders and towards implementation of international and regional treaties and security codes.

·        Increase scope of participation in relevant conferences and seminars so that every voice is heard and all concerns are addressed.

The point was made that despite best efforts for regional cooperation, actual implementation may prove to be challenging due to the difference in perceptions between various states, that are major users of the trade routes and the littoral states that straddle these routes as in the case of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore vis-à-vis patrolling of the Malacca Straits. It was further stated that the perceived infringement of sovereignty could also be a challenge as in case of Malaysia which  had reacted strongly to the US deployment conceptualised under the Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI), and had noted that the US should get permission from regional countries as it impinged on their national sovereignty.

          With a note of hope for the countries of the region overcoming individual reservations and putting failsafe procedures in place for cooperative security it was declared that Indian Navy has transcended multifarious obstacles to fully cooperate in all regional initiatives addressing maritime security concerns and uphold international law and order at sea as per the suggestions of The United Nations World Commission on Oceans.


Shri. P.C. Nayak began the discussions with a brief background to his work on “content analysis” based on mega trends in various newspapers on India and its neighbours. By this analysis he had come up with certain conclusions that he wanted to share with the seminar. He drew attention to the fact that relations between nations was changing because of international terrorism. India has been drawn closer to the USA because this common threat. Similarly, ASEAN countries need India in their fight against this menace. He felt that even BIMSTEC was started as a regional grouping against Muslim fundamentalism. Next, the importance of the old ‘Silk Route’ to China has now been replaced by the ‘Oil Route’ through the Indian Ocean, and the one who controls the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits will control the energy supplies to China. Similarly, he felt that the importance of oil will be replaced by gas in future. In this context Bangladesh will be compelled to sell its surplus gas to India in the near future. Finally he felt that the first step in India’s Look East Policy should be to Look East within India to the development of the North Eastern States. The speaker concluded his remarks with a note of hope that the rice revolution, though later than the wheat revolution will encourage the development of eastern regions of India such as Bengal, Orissa  Assam and the North East.

On the issue of terrorism, the chairman humorously remarked that even nation states that are very powerful engage in terrorist activities that create fear in other countries. Shri. .Ranganathan said that after social and moral erosion of US, the structure of international relations has changed from being axis oriented to one of regional groupings. The example of ASEAN as a regional institution shows that various regions want to maximize their natural and common strengths. In this regard, he felt that India was trusted by many as a suitable economic ally.  He differed with the earlier statement of Shri. Nayak that the BIMSTEC was created as an anti-Muslim grouping, he contended that it was a grouping of Bay of Bengal rim countries and already includes Islamic nations such as Bangladesh. Regarding the Indian Ocean and the Malacca straits, he said that these are common heritage of all mankind and it would be undesirable for India to attempt to “control” them; but instead India should work to see that it is open to use by all. He fully agreed with earlier speaker on  the disconnect of the North East from the rest of the country and the futility of looking Eastwards without paying attention to India’s Northeastern region.  He suggested that development of the North- East should be given top priority.  On BIMSTEC, Shri  Gopal  added  that BIMSTEC had been created as an  alternative   to SAARC which had been stymied by Pakistan.

 Proff Jayaramu said that he agreed that in foreign policy national interest of India should be given importance. But he questioned the fears expressed regarding China’s inclusion in the Asian economic community. He asked if it was feasible to actually have an Asian economic community without China. He also questioned the panel on whether the people from the Eastern region were given adequate representation in Govt services such as the Indian Foreign Service?

The Chairman and Shri Ranganathan both emphatically confirmed that people from the Northeastern region were serving with distinction in all the government services including IFS and their representation was more than proportional to their population.  Mr Rajan clarified that there was no question of keeping China out of Asian Economic Community. The only concern is to see that there is no over domination by any single power.

       There was a lively discussion on the Sethu Samundram project. One of the members asked whether it was economically viable. The panel suggested that it was a technical issue and experts in the field have said that it is beneficial. As a part of the same discussion, the chairman remarked that the sentiments of the people matter a great deal and decision makers should give importance to it.

          Vice Adm Ganesh said that maritime piracy and terrorism are two different things. The threat in the Indian Ocean is from piracy and should be treated as such. It is not  for India to attempt to control either the Indian Ocean or the Malacca Straits. This should be the responsibility of an international organization.

          Vice admiral Jacob responded to these comments by clarifying that it was in India’s interest to see that the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean remain open. It is not only US ships that are escorted but all ships in the region are given protection in a multilateral framework. As regards patrolling of the Malacca Straits, it is done jointly by India Indonesia and Singapore.  

  Ambassador Khaleeli said that on the Look East policy,  he would prefer to treat relations with China and Japan separately from other ASEAN countries, as they are in a different category as economic powers. He felt that from an Indian perspective, South East Asia has progressed remarkably when compared to the progress made by West Asia and India would do well to foster better economic ties with ASEAN countries. He suggested that it was not necessary to label China as a friend or enemy before progressing economic ties with ASEAN or China itself. The position and potential of China are realities and India has to accept it.

           Shri. Ranganathan agreed with Ambassador Khaleeli that relations with ASEAN be carried out without the  shadow of either Japan’s or China’s positions.  Speaking about the Indian view of China, he said that it was not necessary  to articulate it in terms of a  friend or foe. Today India needs China more than she needs us. We are increasingly dependent on trade with China. China bench marks itself with the US hence its standards are inspiring. However as India’s relations do  improve with China and Japan, our acceptability to ASEAN countries will also improve significantly.  

         Shri. A.P.Venkateswaran, chairman, concluded the seminar with emphasis on the relevance of non- alignment today in a uni-polar world where alignment with the only super – power is meaningless. He drew attention to the resurgence of Russia under Putin,  acknowledging the excellence of Russia in the aeronautical field. He reiterated that Russia never actually lost any of its technological or military power. He cautioned against neglecting Russian friendship and economic ties, particularly as it is a Eurasian country.

On the issue of China, he agreed that its past actions do not inspire a positive outlook from India. While he may not be an ardent supporter of friendship with China, he is a strong supporter of avoiding a hostile or adversarial relations with China. He said that one should make sure that the country with the second largest population builds a good working relationship with the country with the largest population. He also felt that it was not a crime for China, as the world most populace state, to aspire for the world’s number one position, when USA with only 250 million population blatantly asserts its hegemony.


This seminar fulfilled Asia Centre’s purpose in directing a clear focus on India’s relations with the disparate littoral countries lying to the east of the Bay of Bengal.  It is well understood in New Delhi that this region is growing in importance and potential, including as it does ASEAN as well as China, Korea (North and South) and Japan.  India’s Look East policy starts with Bangladesh, (the subject of an earlier seminar).  The discussion at this seminar pointed to the need for addressing the problems of India’s own North-eastern states earnestly for us to gain greater credence with ASEAN.  Asia Centre, Bangalore had earlier organised similar seminars on Myanmar and BIMSTEC.  We recommend that the Government of India should strongly support and encourage groups like ours in a greatly expanded effort to propagate informed analytical discussions on Indian interests in South-east and East Asia. This has to be combined with sponsoring many more regional and country studies for the benefit of academic scholars, diplomats and businessmen, complemented by the training of specific language skills and translation programmes, so that our Missions abroad have a bigger and better base of human resources for carrying out the complex tasks of modern diplomacy. 


The seminar brought out the abundant prospects of integrated regional cooperation in many fields, such as maritime, trade and economic, political.  Every country in this vast region has its own distinctive problems in its relations with India, which demands a high degree of sensitivity in our dealings with them.  There is however an overall consciousness of solidarity in this region, which we can actively support, now that India enjoys greater acceptance as a benign power in South Asia, capable of exerting unselfish influence for the peaceful resolution of conflicting interests.  While regional meetings and summits can set the tone for cooperation, they cannot substitute the country=specific approach India has to adopt in bilateral relations. The seminar rightly highlighted the need for Indians to avoid sending out a wrong signal of latent rivalry with China for preferential relations with ASEAN countries.  Japan is a distinct nation with a close security and strategic bonds to the US, an economic heavy-weight with potential military and diplomatic prominence.  Korea is a peninsula divided by an artificially marked parallel  in the middle into two nations estranged from the start, but  potentially able to develop federal links.  It is pulled by the gravitation of nearby China, Japan and Russia, not to mention the entrenched American presence in the south.  Its future course needs to be watched and assessed continuously, since its highly capable people can contribute to our own economic and political interests in a big way.  Similarly, Indonesia, our maritime neighbour, is a large country with geological infirmities, but one with which India has to cultivate closer relations, both bilateral and regional. ‘Looking East’ by itself is not enough without detailed action agendas which serve foreign policy in concrete particulars.

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