Indians in Southeast Asia

Date01 January 2014
Published date01 January 2014
AuthorAmba Pande
Subject MatterArticles
Indians in Southeast Asia:
Sojourners, Settlers,
Amba Pande1
The Indian presence in Southeast Asia is set deep down in history. There are
innumerable accounts of traders, preachers and adventurers who ventured into
the high seas and influenced the eastern part of the world, to the extent of
‘Indianizing’ it socially, culturally, religiously and in many other ways. However,
it was during the colonial period that government sponsored migrations in the
form of labourers, officials and service providers started, which later resulted
into permanent settlements. The diasporic consciousness emerged as the set-
tlers became integral part of economic and political lives of the receiving socie-
ties, while continuing to be connected with the motherland. This article aims to
trace the presence of Indians in Southeast Asia from the early to the present
times. The article also makes an attempt to critically analyze the impact of India’s
diaspora and the Look East policies on ethnic Indians in Southeast Asia.1
India, Indian Diaspora, Southeast Asia, Subhas Chandra Bose, Look East Policy
Indian links with Southeast Asia can be traced back to the prehistoric times.
However, the early centuries of Common Era witnessed definite forms of interac-
tion and an overwhelming Indian civilizational influence on the region. The early
references about Southeast Asia in terms of ‘trans-Gangetic India’ (Ptolemy 1–2
century AD), ‘Indian Countries beyond the Ganges’ (Raffel, as quoted in Kulke,
1990, p. 28), ‘Farther India’ (Coedes, 1968, p. xv), are symptomatic that for cen-
turies together the large parts of the present Southeast Asia remained under inten-
sive Indian influence in terms of political, social and cultural value systems, trade
and agriculture, rise and growth of urban centres and imperial kingdoms. Such a
tremendous influence could not have been possible without the migration and
International Studies
51(1–4) 133–144
2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881717711604
1 Centre for Indo-Pacic Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Amba Pande, 1269, C-1, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, 110070, India.

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