General Studies Paper 2 (International Affairs): Act East Policy

Vietnam-India - Act East Policy

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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2 (International Affairs)


Critically assess the success of Act East Policy with special focus on increasing Indo-Vietnam co-operation in recent times. (15M)



Act East Policy is adapted form of India’s Look East Policy which was in progress during the period of Prime Minister (PM) PV Narasimha Rao in 1993 after India became the liberal economy in 1991. The act east policy emphasis upon execution of 3 C’s- Commerce, connectivity, and Culture. The policy focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. Its primary objective is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels which would eventually provide enhanced connectivity to the states of North Eastern region. Active execution of the 3 C’s has the latent to renovate the picture of Indian economy and the region.


Significance of Act East policy:

The main tenets of India’s Act East Policy are ASEAN Centrality; ASEAN’s consensus driven approach, support for an open and inclusive regional security architecture (based on ASEAN centrality). This phase saw a more active and energetic engagement with East Asia like 

  • Inviting the leaders of ASEAN to the republic day parade in 2018.
  • Renewed focus on BIMSTEC.
  • Strategic partnership signed with Singapore in 2015.
  • Upgrading strategic partnership with Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos.
  • Strategic partnership signed with South Korea in 2015.
  • 25 years of ASEAN commemoration summit was celebrated.
  • Formation of QUAD.
  • New alliances based on Blue Economy.
  • Recent concessions made in RCEP for India.
  • Recent Indo-Vietnam relations.


Besides the economic elements of the relationship India and ASEAN are cooperating in the following security-related fields:

  1. Counter-terrorism: by sharing best practices and information, law enforcement and capacity building (under existing ASEAN-led mechanisms).
  2. Cyber-security capacity building, policy coordination and CBMs, including by implementing ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy and ARF Work Plan on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies;
  3. Maritime Cooperation between India and ASEAN takes place via existing ASEAN-led mechanisms like the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) for the purpose of better coordination in search and rescue, to prevent and manage accidents/incidents at sea in accordance with ICAO and IMO guidelines.


Indo-Vietnam co-operation in recent times.

Vietnam has been a close ally of India for over 70 years and is not limited to official diplomatic ties.Vietnam is critical for India’s Foreign Policy at regional and systematic levels and similarly, Vietnam has calibrated its domestic and foreign policy shifts and where India’s relevance can fit into these policy changes. The bilateral relations between the Republic of India and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have been traditionally friendly but have strengthened considerably with bilateral cooperation over issues such as terrorism, trade and regional security.

  • Defence Co-operation
    • Defence cooperation, the most important pillar of cooperation between the two countries, a new $500 million line of credit for Vietnam to facilitate deeper defence cooperation. Both the countries also agreed to tap into growing economic opportunities in the region, recognizing the need to deepen and strengthen defence and security cooperation.
    • Committed to enhancing joint co-production in defence (includes Technology transfers)
  • Twelve MoUs covering the sectors of defense, space, IT, health, mutual recognition of standards, and cyber security are signed, as well as an MoU on cooperation between the Vietnamese Academy of Social Science and Indian Council of World Affairs.
  • Together they decided to address the Regional Security issues like Maritime security in Indo-Pacific region, calling for free and open seas by holding a bilateral level maritime security dialogue in early 2019.
  • India pledged $5 million to set up a software park in Vietnam; Vietnamese companies were also invited to India to take advantage of the various flagship schemes and programs of the government. 
  • India and Vietnam signed a joint statement in March 2018 which included the following 3 agreements were signed on:
    • Enhancing trade
    • Agricultural research
    • MoU on Cooperation between the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) and Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VINATOM) , to enhance training and research collaborations – in line with the 2016 Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
  • Joint exploration for Oil and Gas reserves off the Vietnam coast in South China Sea by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and PetroVietnam(PVN).


Way forward to strengthen relations.

  • On the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, India and Vietnam need to address issues like infrastructure, facilitation of trade, expansion of the trilateral highway (currently including only India, Myanmar, and Thailand), reduction of transaction costs, interconnectivity of goods and labor markets, and improving funding.
  • These steps, among others, can increase the robust connectivity between the corridors.
  • In today’s globalized world, there are a number of transnational security concerns ranging from piracy and drug and human trafficking to global warming and climate change. Such threats cannot be faced by countries on their own. In this regard, a Joint Action Plan to tackle common threats will go a long way in not only addressing the problems but finding out solutions to eradicate these issues.
  • Jointly work on open, independent and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where International rules are respected



Recent bilateral accomplishments have no doubt been steps in the right direction but there is a need to overcome the bottlenecks to realize maximum gains from this collaboration. The strategic partnership reflects India and Vietnam’s common interests, which will help to leverage the full potential of the multifaceted bonds between the two countries. Together, India and Vietnam can consider the numerous opportunities to advance these shared strategic aspirations to etch their place in the Asia-Pacific century.


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