In News: India stands for a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific as it is important for the economic development of not only the region but also the wider global community. This was stated by Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh during his keynote address at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) in New Delhi.
- It included the ‘Margdarshan’ session
- Raksha Mantri released a book, published by the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) titled ‘Coastal Security Dimensions of Maritime Security’.
- The IPRD is an annual apex-level international outreach of the Indian Navy that seeks to foster exchange of ideas and promote deliberations on maritime issues relevant to the Indo-Pacific.
- Throughout history, the maritime domain has been a crucial space in establishing new and emerging powers shaping regional dynamics and the larger security architecture.
- The emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a new geographic space—bringing together the Indian and the Pacific Oceans—represents the new strategic reality of the twenty-first century.
- India’s role in the Indo-Pacific is considered crucial by countries such as Australia, Japan, and the United States and is an important domain in India’s foreign policy.
What constitutes Indo-Pacific:
- An interconnected space between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean ranging from eastern Africa to western coast of the United States
- It is a product of growing forces of globalization, trade and geopolitics.
- It contains the world’s most crucial sea routes, the world’s most populous nations fuelling high energy demands on its rims and a stretch encapsulating finest global commons.
- The Indo-Pacific is adjudged to be the centre of the globe in terms of politics and economics.
- These island states are near key sea lines of communication (SLOCs) critical for the movement of goods and people in times of both peace and conflict.
- Access to key choke points and help expand and sustain naval presence across vast maritime domains.
- Example – Mozambique Channel, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait
- In 2016 India created a new division within the MEA, called the Indian Ocean Region Division (IOR), which brings together the island nations of Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka for better coordination of initiatives and policy in the Indian Ocean.
- Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative launched during the East Asia Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand in 2019
- Important pillars – Regional cooperation and participation
- Vision of SAGAR i.e., Security and Growth for All in the Region.
- India-ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting held in Cambodia
- ASEAN-India Initiative for women in UN Peace Keeping Operations contribute towards conflict resolution and humanitarian approach
- ASEAN-India Initiative on Marine Plastic Pollution Response towards improving the marine ecosystem
- Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, an initiative largely seen as a direct counter to China’s Maritime Silk Road (component of BRI) with Japan as a collaborating partner.
- Regional institutions such as ASEAN and the Indian Ocean Rim Association – The European Union and India have a shared interest in maintaining a rules-based order.
- China in India’s neighbourhood: China’s economic growth, combined with its military modernization, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans challenges the maritime security as well as widens the strategic and capacity gap with India.
- Increasing collaborations between China and island states such as Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka threaten India’s role of a security provider.
- Belt and Road initiative 2013
- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) 2017
- Sri Lankan government leased Hambantota Port to China in 2017
- Malé owed Beijing $1.4 billion in loans for projects.
- Deteriorating relations with Island nations
- In 2012, Maldives cancelled a $511 million international airport expansion contract with India-based GMR Group and gave it to China for $800 million.
- Weakening regional governance mechanisms – Lack of an agreed ground rule for navigation, climate change, maritime security and oceanic degradation.
- Uncertainty in relationships between US-China, US-Japan and US-South Korea
- ASEAN on side-lines: Individual ASEAN nations are being pulled into China’s orbit because they see that the economic cost of opposing China’s agenda is too high
- Partnerships as a central pillar:
- Address capability gap with help from west such as QUAD
- Modi’s 2018 Shangri-La address provided a framework for India’s Indo-Pacific priorities.
- Connectivity and security:
- Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) across the Indian Ocean of Indian Navy
- The IFC-IOR aims to provide a holistic picture of the entire Indian Ocean and international centre for the collation and sharing of information.
- Bilateral dialogues:
- New Delhi hosts annual 2+2 Dialogues with Australia, Japan, and the United States and has an annual defines dialogue with France.
- Annual Maritime Security Dialogues with Australia, the European Union, France, Japan, Myanmar, the United States, and Vietnam in 2019.
- QUAD – Australia, USA, India and Japan meeting of ministerial leaders
- Capacity building and infrastructural initiatives:
- In 2019, New Delhi met for the first time with the Pacific Islands Developing States (PSIDS) announcing a grant of $1 million to its members and a concessional line of credit of $150 million to Pacific Island countries for projects in solar power.
- Humanitarianism and Goodwill:
- Indian Navy is the first responder for humanitarian crises across the region due to its access through the IOR—in comparison to Beijing,
- Environmental concerns: due to climate change and global warming increasing threats to small island nations and littoral states
- Australia, Japan, and the United States became founding members of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure in 2019 – an Indian initiative
- UN Security Council: need to elevate the paradigm of collective security to a level of shared interests and security for all
- In the times when humanity is facing problems like climate change, Covid-19 pandemic & widespread deprivation, it is essential that we all work together to surmount these mammoth challenges, without being distracted by the destructive seduction of wars and conflicts.
- National security should not be considered as a zero-sum game and we should strive to create a win-win situation for all.
- Dialogue only civilised mechanism for resolving disputes & creating global order