When P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh launched India’s "Look East" policy, it was only the first stage of the strategy to foster economic and security cooperation with the United States. But "Looking East" became an end in itself, and Singapore a valid destination, largely because of Lee Kuan Yew. He had been trying since the 1950s to persuade India’s leaders that China would steal a march on them if they neglected domestic reform and ignored a region that India had influenced profoundly in ancient times. With his deep understanding of Indian life, close ties with India’s leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru on, and sound grasp of realpolitik, Lee never tired of stressing that Asia would be "submerged" if India did not "emerge".
Looking East to Look West recounts how India and Singapore rediscovered long-forgotten ties in the endeavour to create a new Asia. Singapore sponsored India’s membership of regional institutions. India and Singapore broke diplomatic convention with unprecedented economic and defence agreements that are set to transform boundaries of trade and cooperation. This book traces the process from the earliest mention of Suvarnadbhumi in the Ramayana to Lee Kuan Yew’s letter to Lal Bahadur Shastri within moments of declaring independence on 9 August 1965, from the Tata’s pioneering industrial training venture in Singapore to Singapore’s Information Technology Park in Bangalore. It explains the part Lee played in India’s emergence as a player in the emerging Concert of Asia.
History comes alive in these pages as Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, who had eight long conversations with Lee Kuan Yew, tells the story in the words of the main actors and with a wealth of anecdotes and personal details not available to many chroniclers.