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India's Foreign Secretary in China for crucial talks

India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is in Beijing to hold talks with China's State Councillor and the country's Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss bilateral friction points. 

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The Indo-Pacific: What’s in a Name?

Rory Medcalf The high table of Asian geopolitics is abuzz with talk of the “Indo-Pacific.” Manmohan Singh tells his East Asian counterparts that India seeks with them “a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” Shinzo Abe speaks of Japan as a promoter of rules across two inseparable oceans. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa calls for a region-wide treaty to safeguard an Indo-Pacific “engine of global growth.” In Australia, the policy establishment has gone further. With a defense white paper earlier this year, Australia became the first country formally to name its region the Indo-Pacific, which suits its two-ocean geography and puts the land down under near the center of things. A new government in Canberra, elected on September 7, is broadly sustaining that view. In America, Asia-Pacific remains standard issue language, but Indo-Pacific has been thoroughly inducted into the U.S. rhetorical armory, too. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Assistant Secretary for East Asia Kurt Campbell started deploying it in speeches a few years ago. Current Secretary John Kerry has picked up their characterization of the newly opened Burma as part of an “Indo-Pacific economic corridor”, while Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to India this year emphasized the Indian Ocean dimension of America’s Pacific rebalance. The commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, does not even utter Asia-Pacific these days, though he marches to a slightly different beat: He calls it the “Indo-Asia-Pacific.” Locklear is right to recognize Asia as the heart of the matter. Ideally, the region should be called Indo-Pacific Asia. Some key Asian capitals are now espousing or exploring Indo-Pacific ideas, even if their words are not always the same. New Delhi has toyed with the unhelpfully possessive “Indian-Pacific.” Japan has its own poetic formulation: the “confluence of two seas” (futatsu no umi no majiwari). And Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has added “Indo-Pasifik” to the vocabulary of his country’s wonderfully adaptable language. Not all are convinced about the new nomenclature. Some in Southeast Asia, notably the Singaporeans, are still much more comfortable with “Asia-Pacific” even though their interests span the two oceans. As for the Chinese, they have been wary of the unfamiliar new Indo-Pacific mantra, but this may be starting to change. The Chinese rendering of Indo-Pacific, Yin Tai, is starting to be used by some foreign policy scholars. Some Chinese strategists are quietly developing a “two oceans” school of thought, paving the way for an Indian Ocean strategy, even though Beijing’s immediate security preoccupation remains the disputes on its eastern maritime edge. Chinese caution toward Indo-Pacific rhetoric is understandable. For a start, the Chinese foreign policy establishment took a long time to embrace the Asia-Pacific label, a concept that for decades has helped legitimize the major role of the United States in a neighborhood Beijing would prefer to regard as simply Asia. Now the Indo-Pacific idea might seem a further ploy to shift China from the center of things and downgrade its importance by inviting in yet another substantial power, India. It is also a reminder that the security of the South China Sea and other waters connecting the two oceans is everyone’s business. But that’s the point: Things are changing, so it’s time China and others got on board, not because this is their region’s new name but because this is the name of their new region. The Indo-Pacific is not simply a new term for the Asia-Pacific. Rather, it reflects changes in economics, strategic behavior and diplomatic institutions that are having real consequences regardless of who utters the words. Just a decade ago, the term Indo-Pacific was heard almost nowhere. Even just a few years ago, it could only be found sprinkled in the writings of think-tank types.1 Then it began popping up in the occasional official speech. At first some mistook this for merely a touch of spice to liven up the staple platitudes of Asia-Pacific diplomacy. But it turns out this has been a conscious shift among thinkers and policy makers in multiple places, from Washington to New Delhi, Canberra to Jakarta. Words matter, whether one echoes them wittingly or not. The more frequent use of Indo-Pacific terminology recasts the mental map of some of the most strategically important parts of the globe. How maps are made and labeled matters too, as Robert Kaplan reminds us, because they affect how the powerful understand the world.2 At the simplest level of understanding, the “Indo-Pacific” label means recognizing that the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean are creating a single strategic system. The idea of an Asian maritime super-region, in general terms, is actually an old one. It had something of a false start in the early 15th century, when a Chinese emperor grounded the treasure fleet of his eunuch admiral, Zheng He, after seeing little merit in his seven voyages west. Later, during early colonial times, European maps titled “Asia” invariably encompassed a swath from the Indian Ocean rim through Southeast Asia to China, Korea and Japan—tantamount to the “Indo-Pacific.” By the 19th century, this breadth was reflected in British imperial practice: The trade arteries and military sinews of that Indian empire reached China and Australia via Singapore, and went west to Africa and Suez. Thus it was that both Alfred Thayer Mahan and Halford Mackinder each saw Asia as an integrated region.3 So did a range of European and Asian geostrategists after them, from the German Karl Haushofer (who in the 1920s saw the Indo-Pacific as imperial Japan’s to conquer) to India’s K. M. Panikkar. Indeed, British and Australian defense documents still referred to the Indo-Pacific Basin into the 1970s, and at least one Southeast Asian country was scheming from birth about Indo-Pacific linkages despite its present caution about the term: India’s post-1993 “Look East” policy had an antecedent in Lee Kuan Yew’s efforts to enlist India as a security partner in Singapore’s neighborhood. But Indo-Pacific, as the term is used today, suggests material changes that were unforeseeable decades ago, changes that are rendering almost obsolete the chief institution of the Asia-Pacific: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process. Instead, the multilateral bodies that better suit today’s very Indo-Pacific Asia are those that began life around the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) but have expanded to include China, India, the United States, Japan and others. The gathering of leaders that founded the East Asia Summit on December 14, 2005 in Kuala Lumpur is as close as anything to the moment the contemporary Indo-Pacific was born. This reflected a new reality shaped by an end to Cold War constraints and the rise of not only China, but India and other countries as well. This in turn has manifested itself in the momentous growth in energy and other economic flows between the Indian Ocean littoral and East Asia, affecting the lives of billions of people. Though the roots of the new Indo-Pacific are economic, the consequences are deeply strategic and the management of the implications accordingly complex. This is no ordinary geographic region but rather a super-region in which the sub-regions still matter. It comprises dozens of countries, yet effective cooperation to address its security problems will often only be possible in flexible coalitions of a few. While the new name of the region may suit India, the quintessential Indo-Pacific power will be China, and the indispensible one will remain the United States. Japan won’t let itself be played entirely out of any Indo-Pacific great game. And the big powers’ interactions with some of the countries literally in the middle—notably Indonesia, Australia and Singapore, but also, for instance, Burma—will influence whether strategic differences can be reasonably controlled. Some may argue that the Indo-Pacific is too broad a term to denote a meaningful strategic system, but it does have clear organizing principles tied to the pattern of interactions of great and rising powers. One such principle flows from the critical needs of China and other East Asian economies for energy, resources and trade across the Indian Ocean. Another is India’s emergence in the Pacific. And a third is the critical strategic role and presence of the United States in both. Taken together, these principles link the growing wealth, interests, reach and military heft of China and other traditionally Pacific powers like Japan with the Indian Ocean region’s resources, shipping routes and problems, from piracy to political and environmental fragility. As such, the idea of the Indo-Pacific not only breaks down the late 20th-century idea of East Asia and South Asia as separate strategic settings, it emphasizes the sea as the main conduit for commerce and competition. Continental connections across Asia, like the evolving “Indo-Pacific” corridor comprising Burma and Bangladesh, will matter most where they link to seaports.4 The Indian Ocean is now the globe’s busiest and most strategically significant trade route, carrying two thirds of world oil shipments and a third of the world’s bulk cargo. Moreover, the demands of Asia’s growing middle classes will accelerate the exploitation of that ocean’s mineral and food resources. East Asia fishing fleets are no strangers to the Indian Ocean.  Of course, the idea that the entire Indo-Pacific is becoming one interconnected region has its limits. The idea that everything is connected is superficially attractive, but it is prone to conflation and makes it hard to establish strategic priorities. It is true that the sub-regions have their own nasty strategic microclimates and are home to Asia’s hottest near-term security challenges. By this logic, tensions on the Korean Peninsula are principally a North Asian problem, and likewise are the China-Taiwan issue and China-Japan jostling in the East China Sea; whereas confrontation between India and Pakistan, with Afghanistan supposedly in play between them, is at heart a South Asian concern. But this logic is old, narrow and seriously limited as a policy template. Sometimes sub-regional tensions can be isolated and contained. But as Indo-Pacific Asia becomes the center of gravity in the world economy, any conflict involving a major Indo-Pacific power—China, India, Japan or the United States—will resist being quarantined in strictly demarcated sub-regional neighborhoods. Indeed, any such conflict will have global impact. The United States and China, for example, will both be crucial to neutralizing any future India-Pakistan crisis. China has a stake in the fate of Afghanistan. Most important of all, the South China Sea is not narrowly a matter for East Asia, let alone for China. It is a testing ground for how a powerful China may behave. Trading nations worldwide have stakes in its shipping lanes, and the United States, its allies and partners, including India, have a deep interest in what it means for a rules-based Indo-Pacific order. Whether or not the South China Sea is a core Chinese interest, these waters, along with the other sea-lanes of archipelagic Southeast Asia, are unquestionably a core Indo-Pacific concern. Above all, the nations projected to be the weightiest global powers in this century—China and India, alongside the United States—are the big Indo-Pacific three. A major disruption anywhere in the region will have large repercussions for their interests, and the future of the Indo-Pacific will be strengthened or shaken by how they get along. So how will they get along? The beginning of wisdom in answer to that question lies in recognizing that even as great-power politics seems to be making a comeback in Asia, the boundaries between economics, strategic competition and domestic political imperatives are breaking down. This is especially so for China and India, whose stability will rest on advancing the welfare and dignity of their vast populations. So the emerging Indo-Pacific order will by no means be a rerun of imperial power plays or ideological rivalry, nor a simplistic quest for national greatness, grandeur or honor. Instead, it will be about finding ways to manage the intersecting and expanding interests of many countries and their citizenries in a vast common domain. This will have consequences for international power relationships. Yet the roots of the Indo-Pacific era lie not in the rarefied realms of strategy, diplomacy or map-making but in something much more basic and material: the growing reliance of China, India, Japan and other economies on trade, investment and energy links with the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Even more impressive than the scale of the commerce is the speed with which it has grown. China depends acutely on oil imports, and close to 80 percent of this volume comes in tankers across the Indo-Pacific from the Middle East and Africa. From negligible figures in the 1990s, bilateral trade between China and the Middle East is projected to reach up to $500 billion by 2020. China’s trade with Africa, meanwhile, grows somewhere between 20 and 43 percent in any given year. China and Malaysia are already among Africa’s top five investors. And with perhaps a million Chinese nationals now living and working in Africa, up from a few thousand at the turn of the century, there is a burgeoning human dimension to Beijing’s unplanned Indo-Pacific enterprise. Trade and investment ties between India and the former Asia-Pacific are thickening, too. With the recent opening of Burma, an “Indo-Pacific economic corridor” (traversing land and sea) is being hailed as the next Silk Road. India-ASEAN trade has passed the $70 billion mark, with a target of $100 billion and a free trade agreement by 2015. And the China trade is just as important to India’s Indo-Pacific economy. Real economic links are forming between the world’s two most populous countries. Even with some recent disruptions, China is now India’s largest trading partner, their commerce amounts to $66 billion, and most cargo between the two land neighbors goes by sea. Another long-neglected Indo-Pacific seaborne trade route, between Australia and India, is back in business. In the 19th century it conveyed cavalry horses; now it’s coal, gold, copper, natural gas and potentially uranium.  Even aid flows are becoming Indo-Pacific in character. The scale of Chinese soft loans and development projects in Africa continues to grow by double-digit figures. Japan, meanwhile, has begun calculating that aid money and technical expertise once funneled into China will reap considerably greater gratitude and diplomatic dividends in India, as anyone who has ridden Delhi’s shiny new metro railway can attest. But the consequences of Indo-Pacific economic expansion and integration are simultaneously expressed in terms of strategic competition, and potentially of war and peace. This may seem odd, since strategic competitions are not positive-sum relationships, whereas economic engagements can be and often are. Nonetheless, a shifting geography of economics is altering the way many states in Indo-Pacific Asia see and manage their strategic interests. China and other powers are redirecting part of their security attentions to safeguard economic interests and vulnerabilities, and others are responding. Thanks to the pirates of Somalia, China and most every other self-respecting world navy has warships patrolling the waters near the Gulf of Aden. Alongside the United States, NATO and Russia, the Indo-Pacific naval complement has grown dramatically since 2008. The Chinese navy is now completing its fifth continuous year of operations in a place it previously had not ventured since the days of Zheng He. In addition, China, Japan, India and South Korea have begun coordinating convoy escorts. Chinese warships have escorted more than 4,000 commercial ships since 2008. The anti-piracy mission also gives China a natural reason to develop a network of Indian Ocean provisioning and access points: Aden, Djibouti, Karachi and the Seychelles. These are not garrisoned bases, but even as the piracy threat diminishes there is a live debate within China about whether to develop a permanent military presence, however small, in the western reaches of the Indian Ocean. For its part, while Japan may lack a string of access arrangements, it already has a pearl. The piracy threat has prompted Tokyo to set up its first permanent overseas military base since 1945, in Djibouti. The Indo-Pacific nexus of trade and security is hardly just about piracy. The need for safety of Chinese nationals in Africa and the Middle East is already taking Chinese military assets to unfamiliar places, as the assisted evacuations of thousands of Chinese from Libya and Egypt in 2011 attest. The Indian navy’s role as a busy security provider, in the Indian Ocean and beyond, is likewise growing. But of course the ultimate security threats that major powers seek to guard their expanding interests against are each other. China now has elements of a modern ocean-going fleet, but little of it has yet been seen in the Indian Ocean. Still, reports are surfacing of intelligence-gathering missions there by Chinese submarines. For now, much of the strategic competition resides in the soft-balancing ballet of security diplomacy—like whose navies train together, whose ships and envoys go where, who talks behind closed doors about what. Among Asian powers, the Japanese and the Indians have the most flourishing security partnership. The Indian navy drills off Japan and ventures into the South China Sea. Japan is the preferred third partner when the U.S. and Indian navies have exercises together and there are low-key policy talks among the three. No doubt much of this goes on with an eye turned toward China. Despite or because of their growing mutual wariness, China and India have started their own formal maritime security dialogue and are sending ships to each other’s ports. Yet mistrust and defensiveness still sum up India’s principal reaction to China’s centuries-delayed return to the Indian Ocean. China’s large commercial ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka may look more like easy targets than future bases, but the “string of pearls” theory of Chinese encirclement retains currency in Delhi’s strategic circles. India’s more sensible strategists now dismiss the idea of competing symmetrically with Chinese military power and are looking instead to the advantages of geography, partnerships and, in the long run, deterrence. So Indian diplomacy will try to cultivate relationships with Japan and Vietnam, and eventually India will have to look east in earnest. For instance, if Indian leaders ever want their Chinese counterparts to think twice about nuclear-armed Indian submarines, with their limited missile range, they will need to set them patrolling into the Pacific. All this is part of the context in which America must operationalize its rebalance to Asia, or, more precisely, its Indo-Pacific pivot. Of course, America has long been an Indian Ocean power, and its military presence there has been important to campaigns from Iraq to Afghanistan. But America’s capabilities and partnerships in the Indian Ocean will increasingly affect strategic calculations and outcomes in East Asia, too. China has known this for years, hence its obsession with the “Malacca Dilemma”: a fear that acute dependence on seaborne oil imports makes China acutely vulnerable to a U.S. naval blockade of the Malacca Strait and other maritime chokepoints, a weakness which overland pipelines could only partly offset. (It’s not really a dilemma at all.) Now Chinese military modernization is altering the strategic ledger in the immediate East Asian theater so that it is less about overwhelming U.S. superiority and more about a balance of forces and a need to accept risk, as the U.S. AirSea Battle concept recognizes. As this shift continues, the Indian Ocean and maritime Southeast Asia will matter more to U.S. defense planning, for these will be the zones of China’s strategic and economic vulnerability. And in the wake of defense budget cuts, America’s “forward balancing” concept will place increased expectations on allies and partners in these and other areas, even if sequestration spares Washington’s Indo-Pacific forces as much as the Administration claims. How America’s friends might feel about all this is another question. Australia, Singapore, India and Indonesia each have strong trade ties with China. Yet their defense bonds with the United States have continued to strengthen. The India-U.S. strategic partnership is here to stay; the two militaries train together probably more than any others in the world that are not treaty allies. Meanwhile, with their connecting Indo-Pacific geography and rising importance as access and staging points for U.S. maritime forces, Australia and Singapore have the potential to be fixed points that could help Washington shift its capabilities between contingencies in the two oceans—a pivot within the pivot, so to speak. No wonder the Chinese are not fully persuaded that Delhi’s advanced new surveillance planes, U.S. littoral combat ships at Changi naval base, Marines in Darwin or rumors of future U.S. drone flights from Australia’s Cocos Islands have nothing to do with them. Chinese analysts have begun taking note of Indo-Pacific formulations and some are attributing them to perceived U.S.-led strategies against China. The PLA deputy chief of the general staff with responsibility for foreign relations and intelligence, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, has written that the United States now uses a concept of a “greater Asia-Pacific” (Da Yatai) that “incorporates the Indian Ocean and South Asian region into the scope of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.”5 Some Chinese journalistic accounts are more blunt, accusing the United States of inventing a term to exclude China from the regional order. Those same accounts note that China has “indisputably important” economic, security and consular interests in the Indian Ocean.6 The latest Chinese defense white paper declares that “overseas interests have become an integral component of China’s national interests.”7 Here’s the rub. China cannot reject broad conceptions of maritime Asia without denying its own new stature as an Indo-Pacific power. Efforts to ignore or dismiss the Indo-Pacific idea will be unsustainable. Indeed a conversation is emerging among China’s security thinkers about how to engage with the Indo-Pacific idea, with one claiming that his peers have indeed “begun to look at China’s grand strategy across a wide Indo-Pacific swath”, though such a vision has yet to find public endorsement in Beijing.8 China is already conflicted about where to direct its diplomacy in its new Indo-Pacific context. It is becoming more difficult to downplay the rise of the Indo-Pacific after Li Keqiang chose India for his first trip abroad as Premier, a move that foreshadows the critical importance of China-India relations in this century. Tensions are also apparent in China’s approach to the so-called diplomatic architecture of forums and summits. On the one hand, Beijing has tried to confine its Asia diplomacy to bilateral relations or, when regional meetings are required, to small East Asian settings where its weight is relatively greater. On the other hand, China has sought observer status to what passes for diplomatic institutions in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, an all-in body as unwieldy as its title. The Indo-Pacific is a geo-economic reality, the contemporary context within which China is rising, not a strategic project to contain that rise. Naturally, Chinese analysts sense trouble when the leaders of India and Japan agree on geographical terminology as well as values. But when the most significant voice in Indonesian and Southeast Asian foreign policy calls for an Indo-Pacific treaty of friendship and cooperation, it can hardly be dismissed as an American plot. To be sure, the new shape of Asia as the Indo-Pacific automatically dilutes Chinese power because it is a larger region, harder for any one country to dominate. But that is no geopolitical conspiracy. It is a fact of life brought about, not least, by the expansion of China’s own interests south and west and across the sea. And far from excluding China, Indo-Pacific Asia includes it by definition. Even if we assume that Beijing’s grand strategy and security ambitions are unknown, even to its leaders, a map of its commercial interests, energy imports and diplomatic attentions already make China the most Indo-Pacific of powers. It is becoming more so every day it grows. Sooner or later China will need to face up to the Indo-Pacific, just as so many other countries will need to face up to what China’s Indo-Pacific destiny means for them. So how can China be incorporated into a two-ocean regional order without worsening the security anxieties of others? A diplomatic and maritime security infrastructure is needed to reduce risks of conflict as great powers expand their interests and reach across this vast shared space. These are uncharted waters, but some basic principles can be identified. This region is Asia-centric, not China-centric, so a China-led order would not wash, even if Beijing were to seek one. Coexistence among the big powers, especially China, India and the United States, will obviously be vital to the super-region’s peace and stability, and a dialogue among the three would be a positive step. Others, though, will also want a say. Yet the disparities and distances among so many Indo-Pacific countries, from Madagascar to the Marshall Islands, mean a fully inclusive regional organization or treaty stands little chance of achieving much. Such an approach will not work for practical matters like counter-piracy operations, shared maritime surveillance or measures for peacefully managing encounters at sea. The more exhaustively inclusive an Indo-Pacific institution, the less effective it will likely be.  That does not mean multilateralism is worthless. It is significant that Asia’s paramount diplomatic institution, the East Asia Summit, is already Indo-Pacific in all but name as are its kindred ASEAN-centric gatherings. All these bodies include the United States, India, Russia and Australia alongside East Asia countries, and have begun some good but modest work on dialogue and transparency about defense policy and maritime security tensions. But they are typically constrained by consensus rules and Southeast Asia’s weakest links (like Cambodia, which undermined a South China Sea code of conduct on China’s behalf). Fully inclusive forums like the aforementioned Indian Ocean Rim Association will not bring a rules-based order in time for a future where China’s expanding interests brush up against those of others with troubling regularity. So to craft rules to manage China’s entry to the Indian Ocean and India’s to the Pacific, an Indo-Pacific security order will need a third layer, something between alliances and ponderous, communiqué-addled multilateralism. This means, in practice, “minilateral” dialogues, exercises or security operations among easier-to-coordinate coalitions of self-selecting partners. Sometimes these will include China, as with the anti-piracy patrols, and sometimes not. When a catastrophic tsunami hit Southeast Asia at the end of 2004, a core group of America, India, Japan and Australia rapidly deployed forces to assist. Today’s more capable China won’t miss the next chance to provide a public good that also does no harm to its image and strategic reach. China’s inclusion in minilateral partnerships to deal with such shared challenges could help reduce its suspicion that all this minilateralism is simply about forming embryonic alliances against it, as it claimed with the short-lived quadrilateral talks that emerged from the tsunami core group. Middle players like Australia, Indonesia or Singapore could play a critical role here. There is no reason why they could not make use of their core Indo-Pacific geography and active defense diplomacy to host humanitarian assistance drills with Chinese, Indian and Japanese forces, perhaps alongside those U.S. Marines in Darwin or littoral combat ships moored at Changi. But nor can China expect veto power over every exercise, every dialogue, or every act of cooperation among the diverse powers in its new Indo-Pacific setting. Sometimes others will choose to pursue their interests in arrangements without it, just as China has tried its own minilateral coalitions in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or occasionally with ASEAN. Meanwhile America, Japan and India can be expected to increasingly train their navies together. Intriguing new axes of security dialogue and mutual assistance may arise. It would be no great surprise if Australia, India and Indonesia began cooperating on surveillance in their contiguous maritime zone. Indo-Pacific minilateralism is the wave of the future that many countries will try to surf. The principles for who gets to play in effective security cooperation and dialogue in the Indo-Pacific should be simple: those countries with interests at stake, serious capabilities, a readiness to use them, and a willingness to help shape and abide by rules and norms for a secure and stable region. According to the first three criteria, the Indo-Pacific’s chief security collaborators should be the United States, China, India and Japan, with South Korea, Indonesia, Australia and Singapore as a second tier. The fourth principle, about rules and norms, is where it gets tricky. For as long as tensions and uncertainties persist or worsen around China’s maritime rise, U.S. allies and partners can be expected to want to keep open the option of at least some exclusive security arrangements, and Chinese protestations about them will need to be taken with a grain of Indo-Pacific salt. Shakespeare’s Juliet once asked, what’s in a name? The answer turns out to be rather a lot. Changes in cartographic terms can have tangible effects. Material realities are what they are, but their meaning in terms of strategic interests and intentions is never self-explanatory. Those meanings, in turn expressed through symbols such as language and map-making, have a way of recursively shaping material realities and political choices. “Indo-Pacific” is both a reflection and an agent of major changes still in train. Its current, intermediate-stage uses therefore bear watching. Notes:  1See for example Michael Auslin, “Tipping Point in the Indo-Pacific”, The American Interest, (March/April 2011). 2Kaplan, “Center Stage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean”, Foreign Affairs (March/April 2009). 3See C. Raja Mohan, Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2012); and “Return of the Raj”, The American Interest (May/June 2010). 4For a different view, see Anthony Bubalo and Malcolm Cook, “Horizontal Asia”, The American Interest (May/June 2010). 5“Article by Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo on International Security Affairs”, CNA China Studies (April 2013). 6Kui Jing, “Welcoming the US into the Indo-Asia-Pacific”, Sohu, March 19, 2013. 7The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces (2013). 8Minghao Zhao, “The emerging strategic triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia”, The Diplomat, June 4, 2013. This piece appeared earlier in November/ december issue of 'The American Interest'

India critically important player in Asia Pacific: US commander

Calling India a "critically important player" in the Asia Pacific region, a top US commander would like to increase cooperation between the armies of the two countries besides the ongoing naval cooperation writes Arun Kumar  


By Arun Kumar Calling India a "critically important player" in the Asia Pacific region, a top US commander would like to increase cooperation between the armies of the two countries besides the ongoing naval cooperation. Although maritime cooperation is going on with India, Gen. Vincent K.Brooks, commander, US Army Pacific (USARPAC), "wants to increase land-force cooperation and interoperability as well, as India is a critically important player in the entire region." The US is looking ahead to increase the opportunities as much as possible, "which is governed by the pace of our relationship," said Brooks, who had to cancel his first trip to India earlier this month due to the 16-day US government shutdown. "The opportunities for defence co-operation between India and the US are abundant," he said at a press engagement Monday at the Association of the US Army's 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition here, according to US Army News Service. "We are seeking to increase amount of work that we do together. It can be in a number of issues like disaster response, we have done some interoperability in high altitude, for example, our troops in Alaska go to India and train in the mountains," Brookes said. Countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region are "excited by our increased participation here," said Brooks, the  four-star general to be named USARPAC commander since 1974. "We intend to put into motion a pathway of activity (for the Army) into multiple countries for extended periods of time, linking a series of events and exercises on a variety of topics," he added. Units that will see duty in the Pacific region will be a mixture of high-readiness brigades as well as small units of expertise and may include some that are not at the highest readiness level within the Army Force Generation cycle, he said. In the way ahead, Brooks sees an increase in aviation, both manned as well as unmanned, in the region, fully integrated with air assets of the other services. Missile defence will be fortified as well, he said as "adversaries are increasing the range and lethality of their surface-to-surface missiles and we're actively involved in addressing that now." --Indo-Asian News Service

India spreads its wings in Asia-Pacific region

By Saroj Mohanty   "India is so situated that it is the pivot of Western, Southern and Southeast Asia. Though not directly a Pacific state, India will invaribaly exercise an important influence there. India will also develop as the centre of economic and political activity in the Indian Ocean area in the Southeast Asia and right up to the Middle East."   Jawaharlal Nehru's words nearly 70 years ago ring true today as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rounds off his major diplomatic missions with visits to Russia and China this week, after trips to the  US and Southeast Asia, indicating the strategic direction of India's relations with the larger Asia- Pacific region.   Asia-Pacific security figured in his talks with President Barack Obama last month and with East Asia Summit partners like Japan and Australia this month. This will figure again in his talks with President Vadimir Putin Monday as both exchange views on regional and global problems.   Russia has put up a proposal to create a security architecture involving the East Asia Summit partners for the region, which has emerged as a vital centre of economic growth and political influence. Russia is seeking to boost its presence in the Pacific, bridge the gap between its own policies toward Asia and Europe, and figure out a way to work with regional players.   "Russia's policy in the Asia Pacific is deliberate and focused, aimed at a stable balance of power and the development of truly regional agenda. We are of course already benefiting from our time-tested  friendships with China, India and Vietnam," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month, adding that Putin has "personally signalled his commitment" to these efforts.   As part of a new charm offensive in the Southeast Asia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit in Brunei this month proposed cooperation in seven areas, including boosting maritime cooperation and exchanges in the field of security and discussions on signing a Treaty on Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation.   Earlier in April, President Xi Jinping told the Bao Forum that China will promote friendship and partnership with neighbours.   Constructing a sustainable regional security architecture has been a much talked about issue amidst the growing military tensions -- on the one hand between China and the East Asian neighbours and, on the other, between China and the US. Maritime security is one of the biggest concern in the region. Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malysia are embroiled in territorial disputes with China over several resource-rich islands in  the South China Sea. India has its own issues with the South China Sea. China has challenged India' drilling on an oil bloc awarded to it by Vietnam.   And it is believed that any miscalculations over territorial disputes could disrupt trade flows and have global consequences.   "We should reaffirm the principles of maritime security, including the right of passage and unimpeded commerce in accordance with international law, and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes,"  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reminded the East Asia Summit members.   And at the 11th ASEAN-India Summit, the prime minister declared India's readiness to respond to the ASEAN request to strengthen its Political Security Community Blueprint 2015.   Also the situation in Afghanistan, Middle East and North Africa which directly affects the national interests of the two countries would be on the agenda. Both India and Russia share a common concern about the future of Afghanistan after the US and NATO pullout after 2014.   "We are in solidarity with our Indian friends that we should continue to negotiate closely our approaches to what is happening in Afghanistan and around the country, particularly with due account of  the factor of 2014," Lavrov said after talks with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in Moscow earlier this month.   "We are concerned over the prospect that the situation in that country will continue to deteriorate and the prospect that the threats will be spreading more and more actively outside Afghanistan."   Russia and India have a long history of cooperation on Afghanistan through the years when the Taliban ruled the country in the 1990s. It was Russia which had got Indian and Chinese officials together to discuss the future of Afghanistan earlier this year.   "Trilateral relations are very important," says Khurshid, adding that foreign ministers of India, Russia and China (RIC) will meet next month in New Delhi. "The ASEM (Asia-Europe) ministers will also gather."   Russia is supportive of India's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), holding that the regional security group will certainly benefit from this. "We believe that the time has come," said Lavrov.   Currently, India has an observer status in the organisation.   India has sought peace and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific and an open and inclusive security architecture. It is not known what would be the rules of the road and how and in what way the game would be played. But one thing is certain. India, with its democratic governance leading to transparency in foreign policy motives, would be right there playing the game with a straight bat.     The prime minister's regional swing is aimed not just at fostering a network of strong relations among the region's major players, but reinforcing the strategic and economic interests that India's Look East policy, now extending to the Indo-Pacific, has long recognised.   (Saroj Mohanty is a strategic affairs analyst at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at    -- Indo-Asian News Service
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