India as a nation of consequence in Asia: the potential and limitations of India's 'Act East' policy

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This paper will look at India's likely role in Asia under the leadership of Narendra Modi. It first outlines the historical basis for the Look East Policy and the objectives pursued by earlier governments. Second, it analyses the economic, diplomatic and security objectives and strategies pursued by more recent Indian governments to deepen relations in Asia, and seeks to explain why the region has largely embraced Indian partnership. Finally, it analyses the main factors that impede an expansion of India's economic and strategic role in the region. The paper argues that whilst India's economic integration in the region has improved, its potential has yet to be realised. The greatest scope for an expanded role for India is clearly in terms of its capacity to play a soft-balancing role to manage the rise of China. India could assist other strategic players by exerting additional costs and constraints on China to discourage behaviour that disrupts and undermines the normative and strategic basis of Asia's regional order. However, I conclude that India's own strategic culture may be the greatest impediment to it playing this role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-104
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of East Asian affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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