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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- INDO-PACIFIC: STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE


RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- INDO-PACIFIC: STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE


Introduction:

            External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who was on a two day visit to Russia has said that Indo Pacific is one of the new concepts and approaches thrown up by the changing world. With various countries and international forums using the term Indo Pacific in their official statements, it is gaming currency in recent times.

India, France and Australia have held track 1.5 dialogue to identify security challenges and sustainability issues in the Indo Pacific region. Safeguarding freedom of navigation and keeping Indo Pacific stable was a crucial item on the agenda during Prime minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron’s annual summit in Paris.

 

Indo-Pacific:

  • Indo- Pacific is a concept that is more than recent, it is the decade back we started talking about it but its rise is significant.
  • There is an understanding that the Indian and Pacific ocean area is linked strategic theatre.
  • Indo-Pacific is a “natural region” ranging “from the shores of Africa to that of the America.
  • Increasing use of the term Indo-Pacific recognises India’s centrality to global influences.
  • It is a multipolar region, contributing more than half of the world’s GDP and population.
  • The motivation for a larger bloc always comes from the sheer size, resources it owns, and, the scope and size of the economies of scale that it can generate.
  • A “stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific Region” is an “important pillar” of India’s strategic partnership with the United States.
  • The emphasis shown by the US on the ‘Indo-Pacific’ can be termed as its strategic initiative towards India.
  • It gives it a unified strategic understanding.
  • The Pentagon has already begun using the new term in the US official documents.
  • This is, in fact, a region in which several Asian powers are once again rising, especially in geo- economic terms.
  • The US military has renamed its Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command.
  • This shows the rising significance of India in America’s strategic calculations.
  • ASEAN is one of the crucial building blocks of the Indo-Pacif
  • United States, India, Japan, and Australia — the “Quad” group — is emphasizing “Indo-Pacific” as a new strategic space.
  • The main important thing about it is that it recognized the strategic interconnection and common problem and challenges in the Indian and Pacific ocean.

 

India’s Role/Approach:

  • Open, integrated and balanced approach.
  • Today India plays a key role in the Pacific, East Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • ‘Act East Policy’ is aimed at substantial improvement of India’s relations with Southeast Asia.
  • India is also trying to make innovative use of trade and diplomacy as its strategic arsenals.
  • However, as far as India is concerned, this linkage between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific traversing the waters of Southeast Asia is nothing new.
  • In 2004, the Indian Maritime Doctrine alluded to “the shift in global maritime focus from the Atlantic-Pacific combine to the Pacific-Indian”.
  • Therefore, beyond the Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific has for some time now been identified as falling within the ambit of India’s security interests.

 

Why Indo-Pacific region?

  • Maintaining regional stability.
  • Strong ties with the US are seen as a vital tool for enhancing India’s strategic posture.
  • For the long-term vision of national interest.
  • China’s increasingly active presence in the Indian Ocean region as well as its efforts to expand geopolitical reach in Asia and beyond by the use of trade and military.
  • In the present time, the control of sea lanes and ports would be the game
  • China seems to have taken the lead with its geopolitical project—the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI).
  • For adhering to freedom of navigation, adherence to rules-based order and stable trade environment.
  • For free sea and air lanes, connectivity and upholding international rules and norms.

 

Shangri-La Dialogue:

  • The dialogue also called as IISS Asia Security Summit was launched in 2002 by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government.
  • This annual dialogue brings together defence ministers and military chiefs from 28 Asia-Pacific countries to talk about security in the region.
  • It gets its name from the location of the meeting, the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.

 

Significance of Indo- Pacific region for India:

  • India is planning to put greater energy to the IORA because the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy is rooted in the Indian Ocean. This integrates the blue economy part of the Indian policy with the security part.
  • In its Indo-Pacific diplomacy, India has repeatedly placed Asean at the centre of its policy.
  • Asean by itself does not actually speak as a united entity, particularly when confronted by China’s overwhelming presence, for, while Asean is wary of China, it is equally wary of the US and its allies, preferring to keep the Asean region outside great power politics.
  • It is this that India wants to address and engage with Singapore, Vietnam and now Indonesia are key partners in the region for India. This will also involve the Quad and taking this new grouping to the region.

 

ASEAN role in Indo-Pacific:

  • Central to Modi’s speech was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) unity, which he said was essential for a stable future for the region and that Asean lies at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific.
  • India’s stress on the centrality and unity of Asean for securing the region and maintaining a rules-based order is important.
  • A united Asean backed by major powers will be able to counter an expansionist China.
  • China, which is looking to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean, will be forced to focus more on South China Sea.
  • This can be offset if countries like India, the US and Japan work together to build infrastructure and provide development assistance to these countries to prevent them from falling under Chinese influence.

 

Challenges:

  • The region is highly heterogeneous in terms of economic size and level of development, with significant differences in security establishments and resources.
  • It also faces complex challenges in terms of economy, security and the environment.
  • China is keeping a close watch at India’s engagement through strategic dialogues, military exercises and security agreements with many Indo-Pacific countries.
  • China’s military build-up in the South China Sea and its sweeping territorial claims across the strategic waterwa
  • Terrorism
  • There are still challenges for India, especially how it will integrate the Quadrilateral initiative which got revived in 2017 with its larger Indo-Pacific approach.
  • There are differences between India’s vision and the S.’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific even as countries like China and Russia view the Indo-Pacific with suspicion.
  • The renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command to S. Indo-Pacific Command as well as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act in December 2018 showcase Washington’s more serious engagement with the Indo-Pacific

 

Conclusion:

  • Economically and strategically, the global centre of gravity is shifting to the Indo-Pacific. If the region’s stakeholders don’t act now to fortify an open, rules-based order, the security situation will continue to deteriorate—with consequences that are likely to reverberate worldwide.
  • The maintenance of peace, stability and security in, upon and over the seas; unimpeded lawful commerce; freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the oceanic and air space; and the protection and preservation of marine resources, as well as a sustainable and responsible fishery–framework, are all critical towards building a regional consensus on maritime security and cooperation in Indo-Pacific.
  • ASEAN must form the geographic core to any Indo-Pacific architecture.
  • Build-up of India’s naval capabilities, if India has to emerge as one of the main players in the IndoPacific.
  • Maintain a balance between the interests of all stakeholders.
  • Commerce and connectivity in particular will have to be prioritised if India is to take advantage of a new opening for its regional engagement.

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