chapter  7
23 Pages

India and East Asia: Through the looking glass


It could be seen as an irony of history that India – a country which nurtured intense interactions with its Eastern neighbourhood for centuries – had to embark on a policy of ‘Looking East’ to signal its return to the Asian fold. India’s Look East policy was launched in 1992, as a conscious and deliberate attempt to link up to the emerging regionalism in East Asia. This opening up to East Asia was first and foremost a direct outcome of domestic developments, as New Delhi initiated a long-awaited process of reforms aimed at liberalising its economy in the early 1990s. Like the economic reform policy, the Look East policy has been pursued by successive governments in power in New Delhi. Due to these sustained efforts, India has now largely caught up with regional dynamics. India has substantially enhanced trade, financial and people-to-people interactions with East Asian countries. In terms of institutional integration, India became a full Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in 1996 and was admitted to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in recognition of its strategic significance to future regional stability. India’s status was further elevated to that of summit-level partner of ASEAN in 2002. As a sign of its growing importance in regional developments, Indiawas also invited to the first East Asian Summit in December 2005. However, despite its activism, this giant country is still slightly on the periphery of the regional integration of East Asia, as reflected in the fact that it is not part of the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) framework.1 India thus appears as a giant neighbour slightly on the margins, but increasingly anxious to be fully integrated into East Asian regionalism. As a backdrop to India’s positioning in the regional integration of East

Asia, the present discussion explores how the Look East policy may impact on governance modes in the region. In other words, this chapter tries to understand whether India has contributed to the development of regional governance in the context of its Look East policy. This general question leads to an engagement with the concept of governance, a sometimes broad and confusing notion, both in its theoretical definition and in its methodological applications. Generally speaking, the current interest in the governance

concept has to be seen in the context of the declining authority of the state and its capacities of social intervention.2 Nevertheless, it is not so much the withdrawal of the state as its new forms of action in face of market deregulation and economic globalisation that capture the interest of the governance literature. In the process, the state is seen as an actor among others and the traditional administrative model, which is based on a vertical, hierarchical and top-down kind of functioning, is increasingly challenged by new dynamics that are more inclusive and that nurture bottom-up processes. Thus, according to Krahmann, governance encompasses the multifaceted modalities by which a wide range of governmental and non-governmental actors with inter linked intents and interests participate in the collective exercise of authority, however dispersed and split that authority may be.3