Foreign Policy Watch: India-APEC

External Affairs Ministry sets up Indo-Pacific WingPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Significance of Indo-Pacific Region

  • India has just set up an Indo-Pacific division in the foreign office.
  • MEA’s territorial divisions are crucial for policy making, so the creation of an Indo-Pacific division is a big step by the government.

India-Pacific Wing

  • The brainchild of foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, the new division is intended to give a coherent architecture to the policy, which was articulated in the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018.
  • The division will integrate the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN region and the Quad to the Indo-Pacific table.
  • It is not clear whether the different trilateral groupings in the Indo-Pacific theatre, like the India-Japan-US, India-Australia-Indonesia and India-Australia-Japan would be part of this division’s responsibility.
  • The division will be headed for the moment by joint secretary for whom it will be an additional charge apart from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Why such move?

  • The US recently renamed its Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command as it seeks to give teeth to its Indo-Pacific policy.
  • In India, the policy will be run by the MEA, though it is expected that as it moves along, it will work with the defence ministry which runs its own Indo-Pacific policy.
  • For instance, Indian ships are currently touring Vietnam on a goodwill visit en route to China, while others are in Mozambique to provide relief.
  • While South Asia is wary of China, it is equally wary of the US and its allies, preferring to keep the region outside great power politics.
  • It is this that India wants to address and engage with.

Maintaining the regional spirit

  • India is planning to put greater energy to the IORA because the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy is rooted in the Indian Ocean.
  • This integrates the blue economy part of the Indian policy with the security part — a trilateral security mechanism between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
  • In its Indo-Pacific diplomacy, India has repeatedly placed Asean at the centre of its policy.
  • Singapore, Vietnam and now Indonesia are key partners in the region for India. This will also involve the Quad and taking this new grouping to the region.

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