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India’s “Look East” Policy Taking Off

In Thursday’s budget announcement, Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram made an important but overlooked decision to begin upgrading the infrastructure of northeast India. “Combining the Look East policy and the interests of the northeastern states, I propose to seek the assistance of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to build roads in the northeastern States and connect them to Myanmar,” he said.

Specifically, Chidambaram plans to upgrade roads connecting the Indian border town of Moreh to the central north-south highway in Burma. Eventually, Delhi wants a highway network that connects northeast India to Burma and Thailand, which would spur economic activity between the three countries.

As we noted earlier this week, the rise of China is having the unavoidable consequence of shifting India’s priorities away from an all-Pakistan-all-the-time worldview. India’s northeast has been historically ignored by Delhi, but it is critical to the “Look East” policy, which seeks to deepen ties between India and Southeast Asia. Look for more of these kinds of developments in the coming months and years as the contours of a new Asian geopolitics come further into focus.

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