Home » Fate of Act East Policy in the aftermath of RCEP

Fate of Act East Policy in the aftermath of RCEP

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 4 minutes read

November 15, 2020, – a time when the world economy is worst hit by the COVID-19 lock down, 10 ASEAN countries and five others including China, Japan , South Korea, Australia and New Zealand signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnerships (RCEP). India has already walked out from the RCEP last year itself when the RCEP was in the final stage. And this time too India exit from being a member of the RCEP. India has valid reason to walk away from signing the RCEP, but the wisdom seems retreating from its ambitious Act East Policy. Under the Act East Policy, the government of India aims to open up free trade agreement with the ASEAN Countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Combodia, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. However, before India could actually start acting the Act East Policy, the RCEP signed between 15 countries of the Asia’s Pacific Belt is likely to create a hindrance to the Indian government policy to penetrate its market to the South East Asian Countries. This is being stated as the RCEP was mainly initiated by China, which is now in bitter relations with the government of India.
May be India have its own technique to deal the International diplomacy with the ASEAN Countries leaving aside China, but who knows if China does not remain silent make a bitter move to stand as a decision making country when it comes to free trade agreement. This could also be possible as the RCEP is the major concern of the Beijing and it was pushed up to counter the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which was led by the USA. China was not a part of the TPP.
The souring relationship between Washington and Beijing which blasted in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic showed China’s hard stand to dominate the USA using its own diplomacy. When China could established its own diplomacy with the ASEAN and 5 others countries under the RCEP, it is assumptive that it can interfere to any diplomatic move by India with any of the South East Asian Countries which were signatories of the RCEP.
According to Shyam Sarab, Former Foreign Secretary and Senior Fellow, Center for Policy Research, India seems to be downgrading its role in the East Asia Summit (EAS). He stated this as India was represented by the External Affairs Minister rather than the Prime Minister. In the preceding EAS Foreign Minister-level meeting too, India was represented by its Minister of state.
India even though have its genuine cause of staying outside the RCEP, it fails to understand about the importance of the Act East Policy , when it comes to the North East states like Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The idea of RCEP was pushed by Beijing since 2012 and came into reality only this year in view of improving the deteriorating the Economy across the globe. China now has slowly recovered its losses and implementation of the RCEP will boost economy of both the dependent and the producer countries. The North East state particularly Manipur and Mizoram has been expecting a lot from the Act East Policy. But till today no appropriate infrastructures or any measures to make the policy come into reality has been seen taken up in the state of Manipur. The so call trans Asia High Way which has to pass through Manipur is still a far away dream. And after the RCEP, all those promises which are still yet to be taken up is likely to be halt or neglected as the RCEP is likely to be the main obstacle.
Saying so Japan, which is a signatory of the RCEP still open doors for India to reconsider so that it can become a part of the RCEP. Whether India reconsider the signing of the RCEP or not is depended to the wisdom of the Central government , but there is an apprehension on which way the Act East Policy of India would be heading for if India stands tough to reconsider such move.
Saying so International diplomacy is complicated. There is likely that India intrude to make the Act East Policy success by establishing bilateral ties with Countries like Maynmar, Laos, Combodia, Thailand etc.
But how far it will be successful seems to be left to the diplomatic wisdom of China.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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