Strategic Swivel

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  • Modi must use his three-nation tour to entrench India in the Asia-Pacific architecture
  • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a high-profile three-nation tour, New Delhi should capitalise on this opportunity and adopt a more assertive approach to foreign policy.
  • Modi's first port of call is Myanmar where he's slated to attend the Asean-India Summit and the East Asia Summit.
  • It's unfortunate that India has hitherto only made half-hearted attempts at integration with Asian multilateral mechanisms, a fact made apparent by its absence at the Apec meetings in Beijing over the past week.
  • In order to transform its Look East policy into an Act East policy, the Modi government must increase its footprint in East Asia.
  • This would include pushing for India's membership at Apec while assiduously seeking a stake in free trade blocs such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
  • Doing so would not only provide India with strategic leverage in the region but also help revive economic growth at home.
  • Progress in this direction will only be possible if New Delhi eschews the kind of obstructionist position it displayed at the recent WTO trade facilitation negotiations.
  • In fact, Modi will do well to keep this in mind on the Australia leg of his tour that would see him attend the G20 summit.
  • While there Modi is also scheduled to address a joint session of the Australian parliament ­ a first for an Indian premier ­ highlighting the increasing strategic complementarities between New Delhi and Canberra.
  • Australia also presents huge economic opportunities for India with significant room for improving ties in areas such as energy, mining, services and education.
  • With a substantial Indian diaspora, the South Pacific island nation can serve as an important base for New Delhi and enhance its reach in the region.
  • It's time India's foreign policy establishment sheds its inertia and imparts new momentum to its Asia-Pacific strategic swivel.
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