Act-East Policy and future of Northeast India

Look East Policy of India was launched by former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991
Act-East Policy and future of Northeast India

Hrishikesh Sarma

(Can be reached at

Ramen Sarma

(Retired Deputy General Manager of IOCL)

Look East Policy of India was launched by former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991. The main focus of this policy was to shift the country's trading from the west of India to the east of India i.e. towards the booming S.E. Asian countries. The new NDA government in the Centre upgraded this policy as the "Act East Policy" at the East Asia Summit held in Myanmar in November 2014.

The key differences between "Look East Policy" and " " are as follows:-

The focus of the "Look East Policy" was to increase economic integration with the South East Asian countries and the area was just confined to South East Asia only. On the other hand, the focus of the "Act East Policy" is economic and security integration and focused area is increased to South East Asia plus East Asia.

The Objective of 'Act East Policy" is to:

1. Promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at regional, bilateral and multilateral levels.

2. To increase the interaction of the North-Eastern Indian states with other neighbouring countries.

3. To find out alternatives of the traditional business partners like; more focus on the Pacific countries in addition to the South East Asian countries.

4. Experts say that under the "Act East Policy" the government is relying on the 3 C's (Culture, Connectivity and Commerce) to develop better relations with ASEAN nations.

In order to ensure the success of the policy, the NDA government is putting steady efforts to develop and strengthen connectivity of Northeast Indian states with the ASEAN region through people-to-people contacts, trade, culture and physical infrastructure (airport, road, power, telecommunication etc.).

India-Japan relations are passing through a good phase from last some years and its proof is that Japan is helping India in many infrastructure projects.

The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 has been adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete initiatives and areas of cooperation along the three pillars of political-security, economic and socio-cultural.

During the World War II the development of the historic Stilwell's Road, which was constructed by the Americans from Ledo (Near Digboi) in Assam, which is one of the rail heads in Assam in Brahmaputra valley through Myanmar (Burma) connecting to Kunming, in China passes through Nampong & Pangsu Pass, India- Burma (Myanmar) border. It winds up the passes of 9,000 feet Patkai Range and emerges at Shindbwiyang and then Myitkyina in Myanmar.

Besides the Stillwell Road during the Second World War the allied army built a pipeline of four inches (4") diameter to supply petroleum product from the Digboi Refinery in Assam to Myitkyina in Myanmar which is 403 km (250 Miles) away from Digboi. The pipeline ran parallel to the Stillwell Road carry aviation fuel to the air field along the Stillwell Road. The Engineer officer in-charge of the fuel & lubricant division in the office of the quarter master General, demanded that by 1st October 1944 the pipeline to be fully commissioned but the first gallon of gasoline by the 4 diameter pipeline reach Myitkyina on 27th September 1944 thereafter it carried 8000 barrelslas (bbl) gasoline fuel each day which was equivalent to 400 cargo trucks those days.

In order to harness the benefits of the "Act East Policy", India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with JAPAN, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Republic of Korea (ROK) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Further, apart from ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), India has also been actively engaged in regional forum such as Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sect oral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC).

This world is endowed with 3.5 crore water bodies like rivers and lakes of religious importance. One attains the bliss of Divine Grace by taking bath in these waters of sanctity. When the planet Jupiter transcends from one house to another (which is once in a year), that event is celebrated as Pushkar Festival. This festival is celebrated every year in different rivers of India depending upon which house the Lord Guru (Jupiter) transcends to. While all the rivers are the creation of Lord Brahma, our Puranas and Upanishads recognize certain rivers as Holy and are to be revered. Out of about 250 significant rivers 12 major rivers has been assigned Rasis (zodiac sign),Brihaspathi known as Guru of all devas is also adhipathi of all the Rasis as he drives away darkness and creates bright and pure life. Guru (Jupiter) shifts from one Rasi to another Rasi every year. While shifting to another Rasi Guru takes bath in the river associated with that Rasi.

It is a great fortune for the people of Northeast India in general & people of Assam in particular that the great celestial event like "Pushkar" has occurred keeping the whole length of the River Brahmaputra in focus and it is believed that during the period the River Brahmaputra will become very consecrated. During the Brahmaputra Pushkar-2019 from 5th to 16th November it has been observed that large numbers of devotees has come from other states of India however the flow will be even more from the Southern states; for taking holy dip and to perform Tirtha Shradha, Pinda Dan, etc. This flow of pilgrims has not only boosted the tourism activities of Guwahati but tourism business of whole of Northeast will be benefitted because of Brahmaputra Pushkar 2019".

So, in the concluding remarks it is clear that a major component of India's Socio-Cultural Economic & Political activities in near future is towards the east which will immensely benefit the North-eastern states.

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