Pranab to discuss ‘Look East’ policy in Meghalaya


Shillong : India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrives here Saturday on a daylong visit to interact with the civil society on issues like diplomacy and the country's 'Look East' policy, a vision expected to have a significant bearing on the northeast.

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The minister would deliver a lecture titled "Look East Policy – Geography as an Opportunity" in the Meghalaya state capital and later deliberate with academics, business people, media, and leading citizens from the region, in an interactive session.

The idea of the meet was to bring India's foreign policy closer to the people and elicit views from the civil society to make strategies more pragmatic. The focus of the daylong meet, organised by the Public Diplomacy division of the ministry of external affairs (MEA), would largely be on the Look East policy aimed at developing closer relations with the economic tigers of Southeast Asia.

India's Look East policy, enunciated in the nineties by then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, had its genesis in the end of the Cold War following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

India made a shift in its foreign policy when it embarked on a programme of free market restructuring at home and sought new markets and economic partners abroad – primarily Southeast Asia – because of the geographical contiguity of the northeast with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

The re-opening of the historic World War II Stilwell Road to boost trade between the northeast and the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries could be another issue of economic and strategic significance likely to come up for discussion during the meet.

India, which is keen to extend its influence in neighbouring Myanmar to counter China's growing presence in the gas-rich nation, views the reopening of the road as a key to economic development in its landlocked northeast.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said his government is keen to further the country's Look East policy aimed at allowing border trade with neighbouring Asian nations.

Last year, India and China put frosty ties behind them to revive direct trade through the fabled Silk Road route along the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim. Trade between the Asian giants, both among the world's fastest growing economies, has expanded quickly in recent years.