The resolution of many outstanding maritime territorial disputes and the tentative steps for political and security cooperation in the region provide the basis for imagining a Bay of Bengal community that will benefit all the peoples of the region.
Despite its status as a key maritime hub in global terms and all its economic promise, the Bay of Bengal’s potential is hamstrung by a lack of close internal economic integration among the countries that call the region home.
The Indo-Pacific has emerged as a critical region in global politics. The stakes for India and Japan are rapidly rising in this theater, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sits at the heart of it.
India must recognize the reality of regional conflicts in the Middle East and limit their impact on India’s ability to secure its goals in the region.
India may not need a formal “Look West policy” to realize the new opportunities in the region if New Delhi views the Middle East on its own merits, pays sustained political attention, and delivers on the Indian economic and security commitments made at the highest levels.
Beyond just military power and humanitarian relief, India’s capacity to serve as a first responder to crises in the region also requires the strategic will and skill to help solve neighboring countries’ political conflicts.
The unfolding crisis in Maldives draws attention to the perennial question about whether and when India should intervene in the internal politics of its neighboring countries.
As India reaffirms the centrality of ASEAN for Asia’s peaceful future this week, New Delhi must back its words with concrete proposals for stronger defense and security cooperation with the region.
The challenge for India lies in finding the right balance between competing imperatives in the volatile Middle East amidst the pursuit of enlightened self-interest.
India’s problem is not about competing with China in South Asia, but managing its messy interdependence with the neighbours with some strategic vision and a lot of tactical finesse.