29 March 2020

Editor's Space

Looking East

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He star'd at the Pacific — and all his men

Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —

Silent, upon a peak in Darien 

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, WB Yeats


Those lines communicate the sense of awe felt by Spanish conquistador Cortez and his army at that apocryphal moment when they looked at the broad expanse of the Pacific and realised that there was only so much a human could achieve. But India last month reached the Martian orbit thus conveying another truth that humans could now conceive of crossing boundaries previously unthought of.


India’s Look East Policy, now thirty years into its formulation, is likely to present a similar denouement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a former state satrap, as the Government of India tries to engage with its neighbours on the other side of the Bay of Bengal for mutual benefit.

For India which in the old days relied on the West for support – that was where the business opportunities then lay – East, while delightfully familiar, is still a grey zone.


And it will now need some getting used to. Since his appointment to the hot seat of prime minister, Modi has been feted in Brazilia,Thimphu, Kathmandu and serenaded in Tokyo and New York for his outstanding victory in India’s Parliamentary elections. However, steering a country’s business engagement with other nations through troubled international currents can be hugely challenging.


It’s a fast changing environment – and noticeably so in Asia – where national sensitivities and egos hang by a delicate thread.


Ergo, it becomes all the more necessary for diplomacy to achieve a balance, to find a suitable response.


It is this and much more that Prime Minister Modi will have to address as he aggressively pursues the infrastructure development agenda for the country. More so when he deals with hardnosed adversaries like China, hyper-sensitive neighbours like Nepal, or business like hosts in Tokyo.


There are no free lunches available. 


With a government that has the solidity and comfort of numbers on its side Modi is doubtless in a position to dictate the course of bilateral engagement. As he pursues the Look East Policy he must be guided by what is in the interest of the nation. The rest is all diplomatese and photo opp.


This issue’s cover story is on the challenges ahead as India pursues its Look East Policy.


This could well be a turning point in India’s history. Whether the country’s pursuit of Eastern glory will take the Mangalyaan route remains to be seen. Much will be incumbent on wisdom and statesmanship.


Have a wonderful read.







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