[op-ed snap] Countering China in the Indo-Pacific

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shangri-La Dialogue, Malabar exercises, Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises, two-plus-two dialogue, Guam, Martabali port, Sonadia port, Trincomalee port, Malacca Straits, Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)

Mains level: Indo Pacific cooperation and its importance for India


Context

Shangri-La Dialogue

  1. At the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, PM Modi and the defense ministers of Japan, the US and Australia reiterated their shared commitment to the Indo-Pacific region
  2. It was closely followed by Japan-India-US Malabar exercises in Guam
  3. Japan, India, the US and Australia will also join Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises commencing on 27 June
  4. India and the US are planning to hold the first two-plus-two dialogue (between their foreign and defense ministers) in Washington

Turning cooperation into a “counter China strategy”

There are three possible ways

First, we should focus on the link between Indo-China border area and the East China Sea

  • If India cooperates with Japan and the US, it will not need to deal with all the Chinese fighter jets at once, because China is likely to keep some of its fighter jets to defend its eastern front.
  • Japan and the US are willing to support India’s efforts to modernize its defence in the Indo-China border area

Second, there is a high possibility that in the near future India will be the most influential sea power in the Indian Ocean Region

  • Japan, the US and Australia will then be able to deploy more military force in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to maintain the military balance against China
  • Therefore, these three countries should share the know-how related with anti-submarine capabilities and enhance India’s military preparedness
  • Developing infrastructure in countries of the region is useful, too
  • Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project
  • If the Trincomalee port project involving Japanese assistance in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline
  • The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa

Third, Japan, India, the US and Australia can collaborate to support South-East Asian countries in the South China Sea

  • The South-East Asian countries need to beef up their military power
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important
  • These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities
  • Japanese investment in India’s strategic road project in the latter’s North-East region will help increase India-South-East Asia trade
  • Growing India-South-East Asia trade could reduce China’s influence in South-East Asia

Way Forward

  1. Further security cooperation among Japan, India, the US and Australia is increasingly plausible
  2. The time has come to proactively further this cooperation to ensure prosperity and stability in the whole of Indo-Pacific
Foreign Policy Watch: India-APEC
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