|Demand of the question |
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss strategic significance of Indo-Pacific region for India. Mention Chinese threat and increasing presence and how India should tackle it? Conclusion. Way forward.
The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has gained currency as a new construct in recent times. The Indo-Pacific provides a geographic and strategic expanse, with the two oceans being linked together by the ten ASEAN countries. Security in the region is must through dialogue to ensure a common rules-based order, freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce in accordance with international law. India supports a rules-based, balanced, and stable trade environment in the Indo- Pacific region. Sustainable connectivity initiatives promoting mutual benefit should be continually fostered.
Strategic significance of Indo-Pacific region for India:
- Strategic significance: Indio-Pacific is a multipolar region, contributing more than half of the world’s GDP and population. A stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific Region is an important pillar of India’s strategic partnership with the other countries especially USA.
- Mineral Resources: Maritime territories have also emerged as depositories of vital resources ranging from fish stocks to minerals and offshore oil and gas.48 The South China Sea, for instance, is estimated to hold some 10 per cent of the global catch of fish as well as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Maritime Trade: Pacific islands are strategically significant from New Delhi’s point of view as they sit astride important sea lines of communication through which important maritime trade is conducted.
Chinese threat and increasing presence:
- The Chinese regime claims that it has historical ownership over nearly the entire region, which gives it the right to manufacture islands, declare defensive perimeters around its artificial islands, and to chase ships from other nations out of the South China Sea. The International Court of Arbitration rejected the claim in 2016.
- China considers disputes in the South China Sea as territorial disputes and therefore considers that UNCLOS does not have a locus standi to pass the judgement over disputes.
- 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.
How India should tackle Chinese dominance in Indo-Pacific region?
- 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.
- India should focus on the link between Indo-China border area and the East China Sea. It is important for India to cooperate with Japan and the US to deal with Chinese front. Japan and the US are willing to support India’s efforts to modernize its defence in the Indo-China border area.
- Japan, the US and Australia should share the know-how related with anti-submarine capabilities and enhance India’s military preparedness.
- Furthermore, developing infrastructure in other countries of the region is useful, too. E.g. Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project. If the Trincomalee port project involving Japanese assistance in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline. The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important. These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities. India need to modernise the infrastructure to deploy more and larger warships and planes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- India needs to have maritime alliances like Quad (India, Australia, the US and Japan) with different countries including US to protect its interests in the South China Sea without provoking China.
The Indo-Pacific region is highly heterogeneous in terms of economic size and level of development, with significant differences in security establishments and resources. India has been an active participant in mechanisms like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the East Asia Summit, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. All these engagements portray India’s increasing involvement in the Indo-Pacific. 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.