28 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 India needs to engage the ASEAN countries and provide an alternative to China's rise by tack- ling the hard security issues. Under India and Japan’s “Asia- Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)”, the possibility of an alternative to the BRI is potentially viable. However, reports suggest that the Japanese government plans to cooperate with China on the BRI. It needs to be ascer- tained whether Japanese assis- tance to BRI would part of the AAGC or independent of it. There have been many pend- ing initiatives from India. A US$ 1 billion line of credit for physical connectivity with ASEAN pro- posed since 2015 was promised again in December 2017. In 2015, India also looked to explore investment opportunities in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries through a proj- ect development fund of Rs 500 crores. The outcome of these ini- tiatives has been unconvincing with several pending projects in the pipeline. The ASEAN trilateral high- way and the Kaladan Multi-Modal transport project are at delayed stages of development and imple- mentation. Meanwhile, China has already caught India off-guard, deploying its massively ambitious infrastructure projects to connect its less developed border regions and neighbouring countries by constructing trans-national rail/road projects and seaports along the East/South China Sea expanding through the Indian Ocean to the East-African coast. India needs to shed its cautious approach and execute its pro- posed plans immediately if it still plans to become a regional power. India has always been proud of its credentials as the world’s largest democracy and can guide ASEAN, especially countries that took the path of democratic reform after the Cold War. This bonhomie of shared prosperity through universal democratic prin- ciples has failed to keep pace. 2016 and 2017 witnessed political turmoil due to rising nationalist fervour in various Southeast Asian countries. Even in India, where the election of a BJP government has led to increased suppression and atrocities against minorities like Muslims and Dalits. Southeast Asia has been no stranger to the global phenome- non of rising authoritarianism. The Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte, who had openly preached violence to clean the streets of Manila during his elec- tion campaign. Myanmar recently witnessed deliberately targeted operations against the Rohingya Muslim population in the Rakhine State. The once celebrated bea- con of democracy Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remained silent on the crisis. Indonesia is among the most celebrated examples of democracy in any Muslim-majority country. 2017 witnessed an unex- pected turn of events as the Blasphemy Law was enacted to prosecute and jail Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, once a highly popular ethnic-Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta. Mass rallies by hard- line Islamist groups, like the Islamic Defenders Front, to protest against the governor showed their growing influence in the world's largest Muslim-majori- ty nation. Integration with ASEAN was intended not just commercially, but also to establish a viable civil society. Southeast Asian countries and India must introspect on their secular credentials. Local govern- ments must be made responsible for advocating a culture of toler- ance. To savour the economic div- idends of strong political and eco- nomic relations, there needs to be a conducive atmosphere within the society. India needs to provide a bal- ance to China and not disappoint ASEAN again, as this may be the last opportunity before the grow- ing internal feud on China’s actions takes over ASEAN’s func- tioning and severely dents India’s chances. Tunchinmang Langel, PhD Scholar from the Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. | Reprinted with permission from southasiamonitor.org , the publication of the Society for Policy Studies India has always been proud of its credentials as the world’s largest democracy and can guide ASEAN, especially countries that took the path of democratic reform after the Cold War.