Historical and Geographical Dimensions of India’s Interaction with Southeast Asia



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Historical and Geographical Dimensions of India’s Interaction with Southeast Asia

Prof. Y. Yagama Reddy, Centre for Southeast Asian & Pacific Studies, Sri Venkateswara
University, Tirupati-517 502, India.(yagamareddy.y @gmail.com)

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An insight into the importance of geographical determinism on the historical momentum, as Kaplan explains, offers the knowledge of spatial dimension concerning the historical events
(Kaplan 2009). Two decade-long innings of my study and research at the university level on the regional geography rekindled in me a strong desire for an inquiry into the regional semblance which is well-discernible in the physical setting, historical evolution, culture and economic base between Southeast Asia and India. I am one of several researchers who would have felt excited over the regional symmetry rather basic linkages between these two geographically proximate regions. Apart from the fact that the relations between Southeast Asian states and India are of longstanding, history and geography have condemned both to physical proximity even though their political and economic differences kept them at arms length (Singh 2011); and as a logical corollary, there is indelible Indian socio-cultural footprint in almost every Southeast Asian state
(Bammi 2006, Coedes 1968). In his address to the Institute of Diplomatic and Foreign Relations at Kuala Lumpur on 16 May 2001, on "India and ASEAN – Shared Perspectives, Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at the outset underscored that the history, geography and economics have provided compelling logic for unity of purpose and action between us Government of India 2001). Further, in May 2002 once again in his address at Singapore, he laid emphasis on the fundamental fact of geography that India is in the immediate neighbourhood of ASEAN” (Vajpayee 2002). It is obvious that India’s emerging influence in East and Southeast Asia owes much to its deep "geographical footprint" in Asia-Pacific.


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India’s geographic position, military strength, and natural resources, simply its centrality, impressed so much the British India’s Viceroy, Lord Curzon, as to observe in his book, The
Place of India in the Empire, that India could exert influence in many directions and that the master of India would become the greatest power on the Asian Continent (Curzon 1909, p. Evidently, geographical proximity entailing the similarities serves as a natural catalyst for promoting regional cooperation and thereby integrating these two regions and hence the need for developing comprehensive understanding of commonalities and complementarities between India and Southeast Asia.

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