On 1 February 2022, Gateway House, supported by the United States Embassy, New Delhi, organised a panel discussion on “India in the Indo-Pacific: Pursuing Prosperity and Security”. The event explored the comprehensive role that India can play in the Indo-Pacific, from energy and environment, to trade, security, technology and a vibrant diaspora.
Key Takeaways: Panel Discussion on ‘India in the Indo-Pacific’
- 1. Indo-Pacific and India: The Indo-Pacific region will shape the global trajectory in the 21st century, with the U.S. and India serving as key partners, driven by the vision of a free, open, inclusive, secure, peaceful and prosperous area. India’s acceptance of the coinage ‘Indo-Pacific’ represents India’s widening interests beyond its Indian Ocean interests and the next step beyond the Act East policy.
- 2. India’s engagement in connectivity, finance, trade: The majority of India’s concessional lines of credit to partner development countries is in the Indo-Pacific. It needs the participation of the private sector, which, at the moment, finds the payback period too long. It endeavours to establish a regional Development Finance Institution (DFI) and public-private partnerships to close the gap, especially for cross border infrastructure -building, the next step for the integration of the Indo-Pacific. India’s pursuit of strategic trade agreements with Australia, UAE, UK and the EU will deepen partnerships. India must build capacity in the Indian Ocean, where China is gaining dominance with its access through Pakistan.
- 3. Strategic security: For the U.S., defining the Indo-Pacific security issue is set in its strategic competition with China, regardless of the current crisis over Ukraine. However, to manage China, the U.S. has to settle Europe. And it has to manage the battle of the U.S. Main Street versus Wall Street, the latter of which leans towards China.
- 4. China: China should be judged by its actions, not words. Its “might is right” behaviour and aggression show the power balance within and between the Chinese economic and military power. China reminds its periphery that the U.S. is far away, and China is conginuous, so they must accept its dominance and get down to doing business. Philippines and Vietnam are more affected, Indonesia and India, less so. With China’s increased aggression, the latter’s engagement in the region will grow.
- 5. Russia: Russia-China relations oscillate. Both use each other to obtain better terms with the U.S. U.S. sanctions on Russia have limited impact. The tensions with Ukraine can be lowered by compromise and a settlement reached as long as President Putin does not overreach. India’s role should be to support the process of diplomatic negotiations.
- 6. EU: Europe’s Indo-Pacific intent and strategy is serious. Its Global Gateway Initiative and plans to build maritime security capacity to secure the sea lanes of communication can be contributive. Its most pressing concern is China’s digital footprint.
- 7. Quad: The Quad has a strategic focus on China. It is especially concerned with diversifying supply chains and single-source products away from that country. AUKUS, a purely security partnership, complements the Quad’s broader intent for technological and humanitarian collaboration in the region. ASEAN is wary of the Quad and perceives that it could unseat ASEAN as the dominant grouping in Asia. But joint vaccine production by the Quad is developing necessary regional habits of cooperation. Next is the need to jointly develop new rules and standards on critical technologies. The Quad can collaborate to counter Chinese propaganda.