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Sansad TV: Perspective- Indo-Pacific in Focus

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Introduction:

India is an ancient maritime nation and home to some of the oldest sea ports in the world. For millennia, our people have travelled across the vast oceans carrying with them goods, ideas and religion, and establishing civilizational links criss-crossing across the globe. With its 7500 km long coastline and 1200 islands, India has had an enduring maritime tradition and a wide maritime footprint.India’s holistic approach towards shaping a stable maritime order is reflected in the vision of ‘SAGAR’, which stands for ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’. In 2018, at the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the Indo-Pacific region as a natural region extending from the shores of East Africa to the Western Pacific, where the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean flow in a seamless continuum. Recently, the 5 th edition of the Indo Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) was held at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi, with the broad theme “Geopolitical impacts upon Indo-Pacific Maritime Trade and Connectivity”.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.
  • In its Indo-Pacific diplomacy, India has repeatedly placed Asean at the centre of its policy.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

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.
  • 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.