The Indo-Pacific region envisages the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a continuum and stands on two central pillars – maritime security and economic development. The public discussions, however, are focused on maritime security, strategy and geopolitics, while economic development has received less attention. This imbalance can be corrected by creating an awareness on how to harness the potential of the region's Blue Economy and its vast resources and opportunities.
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The G7 has reached out to emerging economies which have, of late, been facing challenges on the economic front, brought on by the lingering pandemic and the mismanagement of the Ukraine crisis. They are also seeking, from the global south, a broader acceptance of their world view. Will it be forthcoming?
Holding one of the G20 meetings in Jammu and Kashmir is a bold, audacious and timely move. It is possible because of the ceasefire along the Line of Control which has been holding since February 25, 2021. The new geopolitical setting offers India an opportunity to diplomatically disdain the Chinese, camping not too far away in the un-demarcated border areas with India.
The shadow of the Ukrainian war was visible at the G7 summit. Anti-Russian formations were expected, but the extensive reference to China drew attention. The leaders did their part by extensively discussing challenges relating to climate, energy, environment, health, and food security. It is now for the G7 governments to deliver, to be taken seriously.
Hailed as historic, the new global rules to curb harmful fishing subsidies is a step towards sustainable fishery practices. The negotiated deal, however, is fraught with concerns over overcapacity in fisheries, deep-sea fishing legislations, and blue finance. It may be better for developing countries to formulate their own regulations and set up mechanisms to prevent illegal fishing within their territorial waters – and hold the WTO agreement to its word.
ASEAN centrality is not what it used to be. Covid, post-pandemic economic recovery, the Ukraine crisis and the challenge of China all tested ASEAN capabilities to manage them. It is now up to ASEAN to work out its unity and centrality with a greater sense of responsibility.
The Quad has agreed to launch a satellite-based maritime security initiative to curb illegal fishing by China. India is a global leader in satellite launches, especially in Earth Observation (EO) satellites. The Indo-Pacific nations are looking at the Indian model because it is applicable, economical, and sustainable.
The recently concluded ASEAN-U.S. Summit has raised the bilateral cooperation to a strategic comprehensive partnership. Key areas of cooperation were identified and global health, SDGs, maritime security and connectivity, and the Ukrainian war dominated the dialogue. The meeting is significant in light of the May 24 Quad Summit, where it is important for the US to have its engagement with ASEAN visible.
China has established a dominant presence in the Indo-Pacific through exploitative economic engagements. This has destabilised smaller nations in the region and made them dependent on Chinese support. For a free and open Indo-Pacific, India must press its advantage in human and economic capacity building.
The Sino-U.S. contestation is a central tenet of the Indo-Pacific. In this power tussle, the EU strategy for the region provides a new way to engage with partners in the "Third Space" for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.