CULTURAL FOUNDATION OF INDIA’S LOOK EAST POLICY: A CRITIQUE

Mehdi Hussain

Abstract


Culture is important in narrowing down differences and mutual understanding in foreign relations. Although Indian civilization has been one of the sources of mainland Southeast Asia, viz. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, yet these countries have retained their unique ‘Southeast Asianism’. Indian influences in statecraft, religion, arts and literature are described as Indianisation or Hinduisation. Historically, trade was the catalyzing factor for India’s relations with Southeast Asia, which later was expanded to polity, religion, and arts and literature. The colonization and Cold War brought to a halt to the vibrant relationship which picked up with the Look East policy of 1991, and again with a renewed vigour in its rechristened Act East policy in 2014. This paper focuses on proper utilization of this cultural influence in bringing closer ties through the contemporary Look East-Act East policy, however, avoiding any hegemonic content that assumes a ‘spiritual mother’. India is seen as a ‘cultural exporter’ to the world but also it has always been a ‘cultural importer’ in the past.


Keywords


Culture; India; Southeast Asia; Look East-Act East policy; and soft power

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  Journal of South Asian Studies
ISSN: 2307-4000 (Online), 2308-7846 (Print)
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