After ‘Act East’, time for ‘Think West’: Jaishankar

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) With India consolidating its “Act East’ policy, it is time for “Think West” to take advantage of opportunities in the Gulf region, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar has said.

“While the ‘Act East’ policy is under consolidation, it is also perhaps time to ‘Think West’,” Jaishankar said while addressing the valedictory session of the Fourth Annual Growth Net Summit here on Friday.

“The prospects of fossil fuel, attractions of a more decisive and high growth India, and sharp intra-regional competition have all combined to open up new opportunities for India in the Gulf,” he said.

“This may be expected to be a major focus of Indian diplomacy in the coming days.”

The Growth Net Summit is an international meeting focussing on challenges facing Asia, Africa and Latin America, growth economies of the world and how collaboration can help address, besides learning from each other.

This year, the summit’s theme was on “Diplomacy for Higher Growth”.

Stating that India could not grow in isolation without the strong support of its region, Jaishankar said this was the essence of the country’s “Neighbourhood First” policy “that is predicated on a commitment to shared prosperity”.

“We do not expect this to be an easy path but are confident that obstacles enroute will be overcome,” he said.

“It is for Indian diplomacy to address the insecurities and imbalances which have hitherto constrained neighbourhood partnerships. Today, success cases in power supply, transit arrangements, cross-national investments or connectivity are visible. The challenge is to replicate, extrapolate and proliferate.”

According to the foreign secretary, within India, there is greater awareness of the benefits of regional cooperation.

“To our neighbours, the fruits of collaboration are also visible in major infrastructure projects, additional sources of income and employment, broad social development and access to a large and growing market,” he said.

Jaishankar also stressed on southeast Asia in India’s thinking on economic reforms and liberalisation.

“Over the years, this has been consolidated through agreements and thereafter, by physical connectivity,” he said.

“Some of them of course, are still work in progress. Today, I am glad to inform you that for the first time, India has started supplying electricity to Myanmar – from Moreh to Tamu,” he said, adding that the Look East approach has extended beyond to northeast Asia.

Jaishankar also said that attracting investments, technology and best practices from the east, including China, and fashioning an overseas development assistance (ODA)-led investment strategy with Japan held great potential for India’s higher economic growth.

He also said that the developed world held a special significance in terms of its potential to spur India’s growth.

“The United States is a partner with whom we have increasingly broader and deeper collaboration across a very wide range of areas,” the foreign secretary said.

“Ties with the economies of Europe have been perhaps less volatile, but of no less significance. In the case of Russia politics led the way but strategic convergence and popular support provided ballast,” he said.

On energy security, he said it deserved a special mention in the context of diplomacy and economic growth.

“Many of you would be aware that our INDC (intended nationally determined contributions) envisages 40 percent non-fossil fuel power generation capacity,” Jaishankar said.

“This is feasible only with a marked shift to nuclear power, hydro-electric power and renewables. International partnerships are key to realising this goal and consequently receive considerable attention,” he stated.

He said dovetailing of diplomacy and development has been articulated in a variety of ways in recent months.

“Where infrastructure is concerned, platforms and mechanisms have been created in countries as diverse as US, UAE, Japan, UK and France,” the foreign secretary said.

“Finding international partners for ‘Smart Cities’ has been a major exercise. Railways has been a particular focus with the Shinkansen project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad its highlight,” he stated.

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