With Act East, India Charts Its Ascent Into Southeast Asia

Jan 17, 2020 | 09:00 GMT

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hand with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the annual India-Japan summit on Sept. 14, 2017. Behind the two world leaders are their countries' respective flags.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, during a summit in India. To counter China's rise, Modi's government has sought to bolster India's ties with Japan and other Asian countries as part of its "Act East" policy. 

(SIDDHARAJ SOLANKI/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


  • China’s expansion into India's neighborhood will continue to drive India’s own outreach in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
  • To strengthen India's territorial unity against Chinese threats, New Delhi is also ramping up development in the country's northeast region.
  • Boosting trade with Southeast Asian states, however, will partially depend on whether India can negotiate a favorable trade pact under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. 

India's emboldened eastern push reflects its aspiration to become one of Asia’s key military and economic powers -- and the existential threat that China poses to realizing that dream. Beijing's growing influence, along with its increasingly forceful claims over disputed territories along India's border, is driving New Delhi to deepen its own political, economic and security relations in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific under its "Act East"{ policy. Shortly after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the government initiative, which also includes bolstering India's military presence and infrastructure development along its northeast border.  In addition to warding off China's imminent threat to India's territorial sovereignty, developing the country's northeastern wing -- whose border with Myanmar positions it as India's gateway into Southeast Asia -- has the potential to unlock new export markets for Indian trade, furthering the government's strategy of building a $5 trillion economy. Reaping those benefits,...

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