Panel Discussion, 2021



Interactive Panel Discussion on India’s Neighborhood Policy with Special Reference to Act East Policy (In-Person)

Organised by:
CHRIST (Deemed to be University) & Hanns Seidel Stiftung (HSS), India
06 December 2021 (Monday)

The Southeast Asian region always occupied a prominent position in India’s foreign policy, evident through India’s external relations towards the Southeast Asian countries dating back to ancient times followed by the Cold War period. Thailand, Indonesia was relatively more prominent back then compared to India’s relations with Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam as of today. It was the decade of 1990’s that witnessed great revival and transformation of India’s relations with the Southeast countries initiated through the policies by the then Prime Minister of India P.V. Narasimha Rao embarked on a series of economic and political reforms known as ‘Look East Policy’. India’s Look East Policy (LEP) saw the potential possibilities of connecting the North-eastern corridor of India towards Southeast Asia aiming at establishing greater political, economic, diplomatic engagement with East Asian countries. The envisioned success of Look East Policy has transitioned further by Prime Minister Narender Modi in 2014, to what is now known as ‘Act East Policy’. This panel discussion will serve as a platform to discuss the transitions, development stories, advancements and challenges that the future beholds in India’s engagement with the Southeast Asian region.

The Act East Policy is more focused on action-oriented policy and to ensure a multipolar Asia through deeper institutional engagement, connectivity and security partnerships with Southeast Asia and East Asia. The geo-strategic significance, ASEAN, and ever assertive presence and influence of China has convinced India of being a regional player in the region. However, on one side there have been challenges in its approach, unclear and uncertain policy as the policy is not worded in black and white in the government documents. Status-oriented power shaping the regional order to its national interest and lack of transparency in the policy process has rendered it as a hurdle to realize the full potential of the Act East Policy. On the other hand, India’s engagement towards its Eastern neighbors has also strengthened its other initiatives such as the Mekong-Ganga cooperation and BIMSTEC. Thus, there is a strong economic and strategic rationale to India’s Act East policy. The discussion will essentially be aimed at advancing this futuristic policy dialogue in line with the specific and thematic agenda on the same.

Major themes for discussion by panelist include:

  • India's Policy towards Southeast Asian Region
  • India-Southeast Asia Economic Relations
  • Prospects and Limitations of India-Southeast Asia Security Cooperation
  • Act East Policy and the problems and prospects
  • Act East Policy and ASEAN
  • Act East Policy and prospects of North-east India
  • Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific Region


The panel discussion is designed to create dialogues and discussions of the steps needed to strengthen the cooperation and collaboration with India and Southeast countries and other actors such as ASEAN. The discussants will identify the major factors and also discuss efforts at facilitating to strengthen the cooperation and development between India and Southeast Asian region and provide possible recommendations to enable a better approach to India’s engagement with the Southeast Asian region particularly revisiting the Act East Policy and its potential to increase India’s influence in the region and also to transform the North-east India.


Session Name Venue Time Date
India-Southeast Asia Economic Relations A-213, 2nd Floor, A Block, Christ NCR Campus 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM 06.12.2021
India-Southeast Asia Security Cooperation B-110, First Floor, B Block, Christ NCR Campus 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM 06.12.2021
Act East Policy and ASEAN A-213, 2nd Floor, A Block, Christ NCR Campus 02:00 PM – 04:00 PM 06.12.2021
Act East Policy and prospects of North-east India B-110, First Floor, B Block, Christ NCR Campus 02:00 PM – 04:00 PM 06.12.2021

Detailed List of Panelists

Panel A- India-Southeast Asia Economic and Security Relations

Name of the Panelist Affiliation
1 Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia
(Session Chair)
  • Former Indian Ambassador
  • Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme at Gateway House, Mumbai.
2 Dr. Amitendu Palit
  • Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economics) at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.
3 Ambassador Gurjit Singh
  • Former Indian ambassador to Germany, Indonesia, and ASEAN.
  • Chair of CII Task Force on Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).
4 Dr. Constantino Xavier
  • Nonresident fellow in the India Project, Brookings Institution, Washington DC
  • Fellow in Foreign Policy and Security Studies at Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), New Delhi
5 Dr. Rahul Mishra
  • Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, European Studies (MES) programme, at the Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya.

Panel B- Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific Region

Name of the Panelist Affiliation
1 Dr. Jagannath Panda
(Session Chair)
  • Research Fellow and Coordinator of the East Asia Centre at MP-IDSA, New Delhi
  • Former Visiting Fellow at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS) in Shanghai, China.
2 Dr. Monish Tourangbam
  • Faculty, Amity Institute of International Studies, Amity University
  • Former Visiting Fellow, Stimson Center
3 Dr. Raviprasad Narayana
  • Associate Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU
4 Dr. Rupakjyoti Borah
  • Professor, Kaziranga University, India
  • Former Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), Japan and the Australian National University.
5 Dr. Pramesha Saha
  • Associate Fellow with ORF’s Strategic Studies Programme.

Panel C- Act East Policy and ASEAN

Name of the Panelist Affiliation
1 Prof. S. D. Muni
  • Former Indian Ambassador
  • Emeritus Professor, JNU
2 Dr. Pravin Jadhav
  • Assistant Professor of Economics, Institute of Infrastructure, Technology, Research And Management, Gujarat
3 Captain (Dr.) Gurpreet S Khurana
  • Former Executive Director & Senior Fellow, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi
  • Served as missile warfare specialist and ship’s diver of the Indian Navy with nearly 30 years of commissioned service
4 Prof. Mohammed Badrul Alam
  • Professor, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia

Panel D- Act East Policy and Prospects of North-East India

Name of the Panelist Affiliation
1 Dr. Sudhir Kumar Suthar
(Session Chair)
  • Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU
2 Dr. Rakhee Bhattacharjee
  • Associate Professor, Special Centre for the Study of North East India, JNU
3 Dr. Sreeradha Datta
  • Head of Neighbourhood Studies Centre at the Vivekananda International Foundation
  • Non-resident Senior Fellow with Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
4 Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyaya
  • Former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
  • Visiting scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC.