Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, among 16 Asian and Pacific Ocean countries, have entered a decisive phase. Most potential member-countries of the grouping, that comprises the 10 ASEAN members and their Free Trade Agreement partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea, would like to see a “substantive agreement” on the trade deal by the end of this year. At a meeting in Singapore, which is driving the effort as the current ASEAN chair, countries which still have issues with the outline of the agreements reached so far may be told politely to step aside and allow a smaller group to go ahead with finalising the RCEP, with the option to join it at a later date. India is among the countries that will have to take a call at this point, and the government’s decision to set up a group of four ministers to advise Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the path ahead indicates the seriousness of the situation. India’s concerns with RCEP negotiations thus far are manifold, but some have been addressed. Naturally, none of this is made easier by the fact that some of the RCEP countries, including India, are headed for elections next year, a point where governments traditionally turn protectionist. Despite these concerns, the government must take into account the deeper strategic pitfalls of either slowing down India’s RCEP engagement or walking out of the talks at this stage. Doing so would cut India out of the rules-making process for the RCEP and give China further space in the regional trade and security architecture. At a time when the U.S. has broken from the global concord on multilateral trade agreements, an Indian walkout would endanger the united message that RCEP countries, which represent 40% of the global GDP, would wish to send out. It would also be a sharp departure from India’s “Act East” slogan and its extended outreach to ASEAN.