Skip to main content

Can the ‘Indo-Pacific’ compete with China?



JAN 10, 2018

The old but new geographical term “Indo-Pacific” is now increasingly used to replace “Asia-Pacific.” In August 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled his regional vision called the “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.” U.S. President Donald Trump echoed the phrase “free and open Indo-Pacific” during his first Asia tour in November and in his administration’s national security strategy released in December.

Australia, which referred to the Indo-Pacific in its 2013 defense white paper, again cited the phrase in its 2017 foreign policy white paper. India’s strategic community also understands the geostrategic importance of the Indo-Pacific to their country. In November, senior diplomats from Japan, Australia, India and the United States met in Manila and agreed to ensure a free and open international order in the Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law.

It remains to be seen, however, whether all these countries are closely aligned in what they see in their “Indo-Pacific strategy,” in particular as to whether they view China as a “competitor.”

It was the U.S. Pacific Command that developed the geopolitical concept of Indo-Pacific during the Cold War. After the United Kingdom withdrew its military from east of the Suez at the end of the 1960s, the Soviet Union expanded its military presence and influence throughout the Indian Ocean region. To counter the growing Soviet threat in the region, the U.S. Pacific Command came to cover both the Pacific and Indian oceans in 1972. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Pacific Command has regarded the two great oceans as a unified strategic theater and described it as “Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

Tokyo has redefined the Indo-Pacific as a geostrategic concept of the 21st century. Abe’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy dates back to his first stint as prime minister — having its origin in his speech titled “The Confluence of the Two Seas” delivered to the Indian parliament in August 2007. Abe advocated that Japan and India, as like-minded maritime democracies, should promote freedom and prosperity in the “broader Asia.” This “broader Asia” would be linked with the United States, Australia and other Pacific nations, evolving into an immense network that would allow people, goods, capital and knowledge to flow freely.

Abe’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy provides Tokyo’s geo-economic vision in the region. The strategy aims at combining the dynamism of Asia and Africa, and envisions a greater regional integration along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean/Pacific Ocean by promoting high-standard infrastructure building and enhanced connectivity. The strategy is also a geopolitical counterbalance vis-a-vis the growing Chinese influence and presence in Eurasia and Africa under President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Maritime security and the rule of law are critical parts of Japan’s new strategy as the Indo-Pacific is a unified maritime theater. China’s militarization of the South China Sea, fortification of its military facility in Djibouti and growing naval activities in the Indian Ocean make regional countries wonder what Beijing’s real intentions are. This is why the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy emphasizes the protection of maritime commerce and the freedom of navigation.

The key to Abe’s strategy is a quad among Japan, India, Australia and the U.S., or the “democratic security diamond.” Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have agreed to seek interaction between Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy and India’s “Act East” policy. New Delhi is concerned about the proposed China-Pakistan economic corridor project and China’s port development in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Malabar naval exercise among India, the U.S. and Japan in the Bay of Bengal last July demonstrated the participants’ resolve to defend the free and open Indo-Pacific.

As an island nation facing both oceans, Australia has also been looking at the Indo-Pacific concept. Canberra relies heavily on stability in the Indian and Pacific oceans. As Australia’s foreign policy white paper describes, although its alliance with the U.S. remains the key to national security, Canberra is expanding security partnerships with others in the region, especially Tokyo. The security partnership between Australia and Japan is tied by a common interest in maintaining the rules-based regional order in the Indo-Pacific — despite the failure of Japan’s attempted sale of its submarine to Australia.

Washington finally joined Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra in emphasizing a free and open Indo-Pacific but with a different tone. Trump’s national security strategy bluntly calls China a “strategic competitor” in political, economic and military spheres, and a “revisionist power” seeking to “shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.” The strategy clearly recognizes the past U.S. administrations’ assumption that engagement would turn China into a benign international player was “false” and calls for competition. Competition, it argues, does not necessary lead to conflict; competition is the best way to prevent conflict.

Asian experts in Washington generally welcome the Trump administration’s shift from engagement to competition with China. Perhaps Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra also share Washington’s assessment of challenges posed by China in the Indo-Pacific. However, Japan, India and Australia have not given up on engagement with China. Japan is now showing interest in cooperating with the One Belt, One Road initiative as it seeks more stabilized bilateral relations. New Delhi has agreed to rebuild bilateral ties with Beijing after the land border standoff last summer. Canberra emphasizes constructive ties with China under the comprehensive strategic partnership expecting Beijing’s greater responsibility.

It is little known that the Trump administration has adopted a classified Indo-Pacific strategy, which is said to be in line with its national security strategy. Most likely the classified document calls for a strategy of competition vis-a-vis China in the Indo-Pacific. The question is whether or not the other countries in the Indo-Pacific — Japan, India, Australia, ASEAN members and South Korea — are ready for competition with China. Maybe not (yet).

As the U.S. national security strategy seeks more cooperation and contribution from allies and partners, close coordination is necessary. Tokyo’s Indo-Pacific strategy is most similar to that of the U.S. Therefore Tokyo should persuade Washington to implement the strategy in a way that other countries in the region can accept, while encouraging the countries in the region to prepare for strategic competition with China in their future Indo-Pacific vision.

Tetsuo Kotani is a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He covers Japanese security policy and the Japan-U.S. alliance.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

The Rise of China-Europe Railways

The Rise of China-Europe RailwaysMarch 6, 2018The Dawn of a New Commercial Era?For over two millennia, technology and politics have shaped trade across the Eurasian supercontinent. The compass and domesticated camels helped the “silk routes” emerge between 200 and 400 CE, and peaceful interactions between the Han and Hellenic empires allowed overland trade to flourish. A major shift occurred in the late fifteenth century, when the invention of large ocean-going vessels and new navigation methods made maritime trade more competitive. Mercantilism and competition among Europe’s colonial powers helped pull commerce to the coastlines. Since then, commerce between Asia and Europe has traveled primarily by sea.1Against this historical backdrop, new railway services between China and Europe have emerged rapidly. Just 10 years ago, regular direct freight services from China to Europe did not exist.2 Today, they connect roughly 35 Chinese…

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…