The Indo-Pacific is viewed by powers within and outside the region as both a strategy and policy to interpret the changing geopolitical dynamics in Asia and beyond. But the question of its geographical and geopolitical definition has varied. Opinions among governments and academics have traditionally differed, but over the years, a viable consensus for a wider definition of the concept seems to have emerged.
Canada is committed to playing a larger role in the Indo-Pacific and has adopted a pragmatic approach to achieving its five objectives. These are promoting peace and security; expanding trade; connecting people; building a sustainable and green future; with Canada serving as an active partner in the Indo-Pacific. India will do well to understand Canada's compulsions and work with it with enthusiasm.
The Ukraine crisis transferred global anxiety away from China and onto Russia. But this has not happened in the Indo-Pacific, where the Quad countries have followed a policy of economic disengagement from China, in the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the regeneration of some economies. How the Quad managed this, is a worthwhile assessment.
Indonesia has managed its G20 Presidency year by understanding the importance of not going it alone. This trading nation has used its deep regional and multilateral cooperative processes which provided trusted back-up and support at every step, and was book-ended by strong linkages and investment partnerships with Japan and Australia. In this, it has laid the groundwork for India’s 2023 presidency.
India is stepping into a new era of free trade agreements in the midst of turbulent global waters that bring both risks and opportunities. A fragile global recovery can dampen demand for India’s goods, but it can also attract medium and high-tech manufacturing sectors leaving China, benefit from technology and skill transfer from abroad and lay a strong foundation for growth.
After its fourth summit on May 24, the Quad has emerged stronger and clearer in its initiatives which are aimed at addressing the Indo-Pacific’s geopolitical challenges. India now has a chance to work with like-minded democracies on an equal footing, with much to contribute. The Quad’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific is to deepen internalised cooperation for continued peace, prosperity, and stability.
A serious stocktaking is expected at the Quad Leaders' Summit in Tokyo, to measure the progress of its wide-ranging list and proposals. In addition to vaccine partnerships, climate change, and connectivity, the Quad must now craft a common strategy for and expedite cooperation in, the economy, higher education, industry, and technology. It will also project unity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The signing of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement between India and Australia in April, shows how well Australia has understood its new economic partner. In this special podcast, Lisa Singh, CEO, Australia-India Institute, and Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director, Gateway House, have a wide ranging discussion on areas of strategic cooperation from trade, digital governance, connectivity and maritime security, to multilateral engagement in G20 and the Quad.
New global economic, military and political alliances are taking shape, and call for like-minded nations to calibrate their strategic, long term interests. The new India-Australia economic trade agreement is reflective of this. It also folds in a critical element: wide cooperation in cyber security, which now impacts the economy, democratic institutions and warfare. India has much to learn from Australia’s low key but smart cyber expertise.
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.