India's Act Far East Policy

March 24, 2024 Aarush Joshi


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an open session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, unveiled the ‘Act Far East’ Policy for India. An announcement was also made that India would extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Far East. This strategic initiative by New Delhi is aimed at fostering stronger ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. Keeping in mind India’s evolving geopolitical landscape and its larger global aspirations and ambitions, India recognizes the importance of engaging with nations in the Far East to promote economic development, regional stability, and strategic partnerships. This policy initiative advocated by New Delhi is aimed at promoting a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region while addressing the core challenges and opportunities shared by all countries in the region.

This policy is a manifestation of the ever-green relationship between India and Russia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the EEF as a historic opportunity to further bolster the relationship between India and Russia. Earlier, India entered a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the Kalashnikov assault rifles in India. The relationship acquired a further impetus when India purchased the S400 air defence system from Russia in 2018.

India’s connections with the Far East date back centuries, when cultural and trade links influenced and acted as the pillars of this relationship. In recent years, this relationship has been refreshed and a new sense of energy has gushed in with a focus on strengthening diplomatic and economic ties. The Act Far East policy finds its energy from New Delhi’s manifestation of India’s commitment to deepening its engagement with countries like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia, and the ASEAN nations. The Act Far East Policy highlights the importance India attaches to strategic partnerships to address regional security challenges.

India’s active engagement with regional countries like Australia, Japan and the United States signal a collective commitment by the nations towards ensuring a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region. The cooperation extends beyond the traditional notions of security, to include issues of non-traditional security as well.

One of the central pillars of this policy advocated by New Delhi is its emphasis on economic integration and cooperation. The region is home to vibrant and thriving economies and India’s larger global aspirations demand it to tap into these for the immense potential they hold in terms of trade and investment. Some of the ventures that are being actively pursued to increase economic connectivity are bilateral trade agreements, collaborative ventures, and several other economic partnerships. India’s quest for economic connectivity is aimed at reducing Delhi’s dependence on traditional markets and becoming an important player in the Far East’s geopolitical landscape.

Another key aspect of this initiative by India is Infrastructure Development. India recognizes the importance of building robust connectivity through projects such as Africa-Asia Growth and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. The prime goal of these initiatives is to enhance physical and digital connectivity, providing access to smoother trade and people-to-people exchanges. India has strengthened economic ties with countries of the Far East by investing in infrastructure projects and contributing to the overall development of countries in the region.

Maritime Route: Chennai and Vladivostok

The Chennai-Vladivostok maritime sea route is of great geopolitical and economic significance, connecting the east coast of India with the Russian Far East. The idea of this maritime sea route is not entirely new as it finds its routes in the historical trade links between India and Russia. This route spans the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea, and provides a strategic alternative to existing trade routes, the Malacca Strait in particular. The significance of this route in contemporary times has grown, with the changing geopolitical dynamics and the need to diversify trade routes. India and Russia are looking at the feasibility of a Chennai-Vladivostok Sea route that would allow India access to Russia’s Far East in 24 days as compared to the 40 days taken now because of the current route via the Suez Canal and Europe. The distance covered via this route is approximately 5,600 nautical miles or roughly about 10,300 kilometres.

This route could bring much-needed peace and prosperity to the South China Sea and could open new avenues for India, one being the trilateral cooperation between India, Russia, and Vietnam. Opening of the route between Chennai and Vladivostok is significant as it ensures connectivity between the two major ports of Chennai and Vladivostok and gives the much-needed impetus to the connectivity between India, Russia, and the Far East.

The maritime route facilitates increased trade between India and Russia and opens new avenues for economic collaboration. The resource-rich Russian Far East presents opportunities for Indian industries, especially in sectors like minerals, energy and forestry. Russian businesses can benefit from access to Indian markets, fostering mutual economic growth.

A vibrant and active sea route will help better the connectivity and upscale trade relations between the two countries. Another important benefit of this sea route is the increase in bandwidth of India’s influence and presence in the Indo-Pacific as well as the South China Sea. The Russian Far East also houses a resource-rich region. The region is rich in oil, natural gas, timber, gold, and diamond among several other resources, which is of immense use to India. A thriving Vladivostok-Chennai link translates to India strengthening its equation of checks and balances with China.

Enormous infrastructure development is required to understand the true potential of the maritime corridor. India and Russia need to invest in port facilities, shipping lanes and logistical support to ensure the smooth flow of goods.

Additionally, the route will play an important role in connecting India with the Northeast and the Western Pacific region. Another possibility is that the Chennai-Vladivostok link could grow into an extension of the existing India-Japan Pacific into the Indian Ocean Corridor. China views this as an imminent danger to its maritime One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Both countries have common interests in countering regional security challenges. This corridor enables faster development of naval assets in case of emergencies, enhancing maritime security in the region.


However, this ambitious initiative comes with its own set of challenges. Regional complexes, historical disputes and rivalries pose some of the imminent hurdles. Balancing the interests of an array of diverse nations demands nuanced diplomacy and strategic finesse. The maritime corridor strengthens the strategic partnership between India and Russia. Geopolitical complexities and environmental concerns are among the many hurdles that need to be overcome for the realization of this project. Navigating through these challenges will require considerable diplomatic skills and collaborative efforts between both countries. The success of the route lies not only with the two countries but also with regional stakeholders. Cooperation with countries like Japan and South Korea have shared interests in the stability of the region will be crucial.

India’s policy in the Far East marks a strategic shift in its foreign policy calculations as it recognizes the importance of the Far East in helping shape its geopolitical ambitions. The Far East strategy is becoming increasingly distinct from the Look East policy in its geographic scope and strategic depth. By prioritizing economic cooperation, maritime security and multilateral engagement, India aims to foster a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. India continues to be widely considered a major power and one of the key stakeholders in the emerging security dynamics of the region. As a result of this policy, it has become entrenched as a country of economic, diplomatic and strategic consequence in the region. India’s role in East Asia is taking shape. While India is not a substantial economic force yet, its military capabilities and common interests with states in Asia in defending the norms of the existing regional order have increased the expectations about the role it can and should play if tensions arise in the region. While a major conflict is far from certain to arise over disputes in the region, India’s willingness to defend the established principles of the region diplomatically under the leadership of Narendra Modi has raised expectations that New Delhi is willing to go beyond rhetoric. However, as the policy continues to evolve with time, its success lies in India’s adept diplomacy in continuing to forge better relations with countries in the Far East. In this manner, India aims to lead the order in shaping up an inclusive and open Indo-Pacific region.


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About the Author:

Aarush Joshi is currently working as a Research Intern at Indic Researchers Forum. He is pursuing BA Political Science (Hons.) from OP Jindal Global University.


The article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of the organisation.

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