[Answered] Discuss India’s concept of Indo-Pacific. Why Indo-Pacific region has a strategic significance for India?

Demand of the question Introduction. What is India’s concept of Indo-Pacific? Body. Discuss the strategic significance of Indo-Pacific region for India. Mention various government efforts regarding Indo-Pacific region. Conclusion. Way forward.

The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ is a geographic region consisting of the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean. It has gained currency as a new construct in recent times. Trade dependence and the changing nature of the maritime threat has raised awareness of the importance of ensuring secure seas for the unhindered movement of trade and energy. India supports a rules-based, balanced, and stable trade environment in the Indo-Pacific region.

India’s concept of Indo-Pacific:

  1. Geographical extent:  India’s idea of the Indo-Pacific starting from Africa to the America, which covers both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, in tandem with that of Japan. It was highlighted by India at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018 with the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy being rooted in the Indian Ocean.
  2. Inclusive concept: According to the Ministry of External affairs, India’s policy perspective on Indo-Pacific, include inclusiveness, openness, ASEAN centrality and that the concept is not directed against any country.
  3. Rule based Indo-Pacific: India’s concept of Indo-Pacific emphasise on a shared commitment to maintain and strengthen a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific in which all nations are sovereign, strong and prosperous is India’s emphasis.
  4. Free and open region:It asks for a free, open and inclusive region that fosters universal respect for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight and sustainable development.
  5. Overall Security: The focus of India’s Indo Pacific initiative and concept is also on connectivity, enhancing maritime security, counterterrorism, non-proliferation and cyber issues.

Strategic significance of Indo-Pacific region for India:

  1. Mineral Resources: Maritime territories have emerged as depositories of vital resources ranging from fish stocks to minerals and offshore oil and gas. The South China Sea, for instance, is estimated to hold some 10% of the global fish resources as well as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  2. Economic Growth: According to a report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), countries in the Indo-Pacific produce over 60% of global GDP, making the region the largest single contributor to global growth. Thus, the region is important for India’s economic growth and aim of reaching a $5 trillion economic goal.
  3. Commerce: The region consists of many of the world’s vital choke points for global commerce, including the Straits of Malacca which is very critical for the growth of the world economy. The Indo-Pacific region also stands at the intersection of international trade, with around 32.2 million barrels of crude oil pass through annually and 40% of global exports come from the region.
  4. Connectivity: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.
  5. Chinese threat: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 Demand rule based order to secure India’s interests and free trade. In the present time, the control of sea lanes and ports would be the game.
  6. Freedom of navigation: It is important to adhere to freedom of navigation, adherence to rules-based order and stable trade environment. Also for free sea and air lanes, connectivity and upholding international rules and norms.

Government efforts regarding Indo-Pacific region:

  1. SAGAR: The government has introduced the concept of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and believes in an Indo-Pacific that is free, open and inclusive, and one that is founded upon a cooperative and collaborative rules-based order.
  2. Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD): In continuation of the process of engaging the global strategic community in an annual review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the second edition of Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD), 2019 was held in New Delhi.
  3. Maritime exercises: Being extremely careful of its relationship with China, India has tried to keep away from several military and naval exercises. Though it is one of the major Indo-Pacific powers, it has not allowed countries like Australia to participate in the annual, Indian-led multinational Exercise Malabar.
  4. Participation at international platforms: India has been an active participant in mechanisms like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the East Asia Summit, and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. All these engagements portray India’s increasing involvement in the Indo-Pacific. 
  5. Dialogue with China: From the economic point of view, relationship with China is important, as it is India’s largest trading partner. From a security perspective, the standoff in the Doklam valley was resolved through dialogue. It was followed by the Wuhan informal summit and efforts are on to improve ties.

The Indo-pacific region is highly heterogeneous in terms of economic size and level of development, with significant differences in security establishments and resources. Maintaining the delicate balance between the interests of all stakeholders will be a key challenge. Thus, India needs to carefully design its Indo-Pacific policy while keeping its long-term strategic and economic interests in mind.

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