The news of the EU's much-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy was overshadowed by the Australia-UK-U.S. military alliance, AUKUS. Eight weeks later, tempers are cooling off as the U.S and EU signed agreements at COP26. So, are transatlantic good times back on track? Has AUKUS put a permanent spanner in the wheel of the EU’s Indo-Pacific outreach?
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The Bay of Bengal is gaining relevance as a significant sub-region within the Indo-Pacific. Despite its importance to regional security, there is inadequate financial, physical, and energy connectivity. India must use its strategic and political pre-eminence and influence in the sub-region to pursue deeper connectivity with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and to block China's growing influence.
The EU's Indo-Pacific strategy, released in September, set the tone for a renewed focus on the region. Europe's Asia connect is rich, strong and multi-layered, laying the foundation for an advantageous position for the EU in the Indo-Pacific. This can be achieved if the EU is more candid with itself, more assertive with China, and more cooperative with India.
China is a clear winner in the physical connectivity stakes in the Bay of Bengal, and there's a reason a why: Its projects are connected to one another, from rail to road to port. While India also has some successful cross-border road and rail infrastructure projects, they are often an extension of an existing railway line or highway, not specific to the connectivity needs of the region. India can win by focussing instead on building infrastructure to maximise the vast maritime potential of the Bay of Bengal, especially the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that give India access to critical sea channels and trade routes.
The Oct 30-31 G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome took several important steps to accelerate economic recovery and health security. In the absence of several Eurasian leaders, India played a significant role especially on climate and energy. The G20 will now acquire greater salience in India's foreign policy, as it readies to lead the grouping in 2023.
ASEAN summits often tend to be routine affairs with long joint communiques. But the 26th October Summit had interesting dimensions. ASEAN had to balance Indo-Pacific rivalries, suspend Myanmar from attending, and expedite trade services agreements. As it seeks to expand its global engagement, ASEAN must remember to remain an area of solace and stability for its members.
On 25 October 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House presented his remarks at the Technical Session 1 on ‘Post-Covid Economic Recovery and Restoring Growth Momentum in BIMSTEC’ of the International Symposium on “BIMSTEC: A Vehicle for Growth and Development”.
The Bay of Bengal is a natural bridge between South and South-East Asia, which New Delhi seeks to optimise. But progress on India's Act East policy has been slow, creating a space for China's Belt and Road Initiative to step into. While India cannot match China’s cheque-book diplomacy, it can use its start-up industry to pursue a combination of physical, technological and financial projects to improve regional connectivity.
On 6 October 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Programme, spoke to Dr. Pramod Jaiswal, Strategic Affairs Editor at Khabarhub on the role of Nepal in BIMSTEC and SAARC, in an analysis of the 17th BIMSTEC ministerial meetings. He also highlighted the role of SAARC and BIMSTEC in countering Chinese influence in the region.
A new maritime law in China allows it to supervise all foreign vessels which appear in the country's "territorial waters" - many parts of which are internationally disputed. Nationalistic maritime actions such as China’s aggression in the South China Sea and Russia’s actions in the Black Sea, has revived international focus on maritime law. In this podcast, Dr Stefan Talmon, professor and co-director at the Institute of International Law, University of Bonn, interprets maritime law in the two hotly contested seas.