Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Explained: How US coined ‘Indo-Pacific’ to redefine geo-politics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Significance of Indo-Pacific Region

What is Indo-Pacific?

  • In geographical terms, the Indo-Pacific refers to the two oceans — the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean — between the east coast of Africa, and the American west coast and all the countries with a coast on it.
  • It has been in currency among scholars of international relations and geo-politics since the first decade of this century as an economic and a strategic region.
  • However, its widespread use began after an October 2017 speech on US-India relations by former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who spoke of an India-US partnership in the interests of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, as India was more reliable than China.

Why use the term?

  • This move is redefining the region away from China’s economic and strategic dominance.
  • India’s resistance at the height of the tensions over several issues – the Doklam military standoff, the CPEC running through PoK, and more generally over the entire Chinese BRI.
  • The adoption of the term appeared to challenge India to play a larger role in the region, for instance in the Quad.

More focus on India

  • US emphasizes to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity — so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.
  • It also seemed to put India squarely in the middle of this region, challenging it to a larger role in the region, for instance in the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that informally brings together for strategic talks and military exercises.
  • The “Indo-Pacific” has evoked mixed reactions in the Indian strategic community, with some cautioning that such positioning should not aggravate Delhi’s tensions with Beijing.
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