The following report was originally published by Brookings India on October 24, 2019. The Executive Summary is below and the full text can be downloaded here.
India’s “Act East” Policy evolved from its prior “Look East” Policy during the 2000s in response to China’s rise and assertiveness, the inadequacies of the post-Cold War security order, and India’s growing capabilities. The Act East Policy differs from the Look East Policy in three ways: it has moved beyond primarily economic objectives to encompass security and other realms, its focus has widened from Southeast and Northeast Asia to the entirety of the Indo-Pacific, and the urgency and priority of its efforts have been elevated. The objective of the Act East Policy is to preserve a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. It increasingly involves four elements: securing the Indian Ocean, integrating with Southeast Asia, deepening strategic partnerships with other balancing powers (the United States, Japan, Australia, France, Russia, and others), and managing differences with China. While considerable progress has been made in each of these areas, and India can build upon an often-overlooked history of leadership in Asia, New Delhi will need to do much more to ensure that its stated objective of a “free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific” is met. This will require steps to improve naval acquisitions, defense exports, overseas project implementation, air connectivity, regional trade, and investment screening.