While there is no consensus yet on what constitutes the Indo-Pacific, it is widely regarded as the region that covers Asia-Pacific and India. The Indo-Pacific includes both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and is essentially more of an ideological construct for a regional strategic framework.
In 2007, the formation of what would be called the informal Quadthe aggregation of Japan, India, the United States and Australia focused on their shared values of democracy and the rule of law, and a mutual commitment to ensure the stability of their maritime commons in the Indo-Pacific. The Quad strives to maintain the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. The Obama administration at the time used the term Asia-Pacific; when US President Donald Trump took his stand, the Quad began using the term Indo-Pacific to sum up the idea of greater Indian influence and isolate China at the same time. The idea of Indo-Pacific is also strongly supported by the European Union. However, there is doubt as to whether the region will succeed and be systematically institutionalized in the future, as several countries in the region are not actively involved in it, including South Korea and the Philippines.
The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific is widely adopted around the world; this means that countries can act without any constraints and engage in trade and investment in an easier way. Japan was the first country to use this concept. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed that Japan is constantly working on this vision which focuses on the creation and development of new connectivity corridors. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also adopted the same concept. The main objective of the Indo-Pacific is centered on the oceans, and India occupies an important strategic position in the Indian Ocean. Maritime connectivity between India and its trading partners is imperative for Indo-Pacific connectivity. PM Abes ‘Indo-Pacific strategy is a counterweight to the expansion of Chinese influence in Eurasia and Africa under the leadership of President Xi Jinpings’ massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Linked to the BRI, China has already consolidated its presence in the ports of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, as well as in the Maldives and Tanzania. Japan has long seen the rise of China. What Japan would never have imagined is that China would end up creating excess supply and capacity. The BRI began as a business of managing excess capacity for China. However, it has gone from an economic project to a soft power initiative, and now to a hard power proposition due to alternative responses and proposals.
The Indo-Pacific idea as used by Trump means that India, the United States, Australia and Japan will join the fight against China in the new framework of growing influence of the Cold War. Many Chinese academics believe that the Indo-Pacific strategy aims to guard against China’s foreign and security policy. In addition, BRI China has given a boost to economic ties across the Indo-Pacific region, for which the United States still lacks a precise geopolitical answer. The fundamental objective of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States is to prevent the rise of China and reduce its influence in order to secure and stabilize the supremacy of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region through political, diplomatic and military support. Washington’s efforts are aimed at counterbalancing Beijing’s ever-increasing military progress and investment in the region. During the Raisina roundtable, Daniel Kliman observed that China has yet to articulate a clear vision on the concept of Indo-Pacific and that its future is contested.
Indeed, China is the proverbial elephant in the room. Since China has more economic presence, the Indo-Pacific is thought to reflect the rise of China and India. It is also a reflection of the interactions and connectivity between Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean. From a political point of view, the reflection of the emergence of competition from the great powers comes into force. The challenge for the future order in this region is the lessening of competition from the great powers. It is in China’s interest to keep the region open, stable and prosperous. To maintain the Indo-Pacific order, there will be more accommodation and communication between the great powers which should observe the centrality of ASEAN in regional cooperation and its mechanisms should play a major role. Regional economic cooperation and integration should be encouraged and common challenges such as terrorism, climate change, poverty and other regional and global crises should be treated with care. Disputes and disputes must be well managed through peaceful settlement. A major emphasis must be placed on the promise of a free, open and sustainable Indo-Pacific for the development of social, environmental and governmental standards of investment and development. In addition, the United States, Japan, India and Australia need to improve coordination and joint adoption of policies and strategies.
This essay was originally published in the 2019 Raisina Dialogue Conference Report
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