The Pan-Asian connectivity conference was held on July 28, 2016, organised by the U.S Consulate General-Kolkata in association with Center for American and Global Securities (CAGS), Indiana University, Bloomington and Observer Research Foundation (ORF). It was held to launch a report book- Heading East: Security, Trade, and Environment between India and Southeast Asia, published by Oxford University Press.
‘Building Pan-Asian Connectivity’ conference held by U.S Consulate General-Kolkata, CAGS and the ORF in the Lincoln Room, American Center, Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, focused on the challenges to and opportunities of building bridges between India and South East Asia. The book, Heading East: Security, Trade, and Environment between India and Southeast Asia, published by Oxford University Press was launched by the U.S Consul General Craig Hall, Dr. Sumit Ganguly, Director of the Center on American and Global Security, Indiana university, Bloomington and Dr. Karen Stoll Farrell, Librarian for south Asian and southeast Asian Studies, and the Head of Area Studies Department at Indiana University
Observations of the Consul General
Craig Hall highlighted the similarities of the American policy of Asia Rebalance and the Indian Look East policy- both aspire for economic growth and prosperity, increasing political stability by respect of human rights, regional connectivity and most importantly focus on the south-east Asian region as a crucial player in the international arena for the years to come. Being the first Consul General to have visited all the North Eastern states, Hall stated, ”Regional connectivity is extremely important. Forums such as ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) can prove to be vital networks of states, but only if they function in accordance with international law and order”. Emphasising on the importance of connectivity and inter-state dialogue in addressing issues such as illegal immigration and environmental degradation, he added, ”Such issues can only be solved with transnational cooperation”.
About the book
The book – Heading East: Security, Trade, and Environment between India and Southeast Asia is an outcome of an earlier held conference- ‘Building Pan-Asian Connectivity’ held in March, 2015. While launching the book, Hall said, “the book assesses the challenges and the opportunities for building bridges between India and Southeast Asia and points the way towards more robust relationships that will define the future of the Asia-Pacific Region”. The book elaborates on the current situation and processes involved in ameliorating the possibility for regional relationship, connectivity and growth.
Craig Hall reminded everyone that both America and India shared similar strategic interests in building ties with southeast Asian countries. However, he also said, “It is seen that sometimes partnerships can be all about talk and no action. Although this needs to change, we must remember that there can be no action without talk”.
The ORF representative in Kolkata, Ashok Dhar adding to the same thought said, “This book was a result of think-tanks and from the continuous and rigorous discussion that took place. We arrived at this distilled form of truth because of the process”.
The book launch brought forward the need for pursuing more transparent and close relations within and around India. With initiative from and collaborations with America, India finds itself with the opportunity of strengthening and deepening ties in the pursuit of its foreign policy.