Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

Sharing Indo-Pacific vision in the region


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indo-Pacific construct

Mains level : Paper 2- India's Indo-Pacific vision

 Where do we geographically place the Indo-Pacific?

  • Term “Indo-Pacific” has come into prominence in the past decade.
  • India has used it in joint statements with a series of partner countries, including but not limited to the United States, Australia, France, Indonesia, Japan, and of course the United Kingdom.
  • It figures in meetings with our ASEAN and has helped advance the Quad consultations.
  • Indian Foreign Ministry has recently set up an Indo-Pacific Division as well as an Oceania Division a sign of India’s commitment to this critical geography.
  • This has encouraged other countries to perceive and define the region in its full extent.
  • For India, the Indo-Pacific is that vast maritime space stretching from the western coast of North America to the eastern shores of Africa.
  • Today, more and more countries are aligning their definition of the Indo-Pacific with Indias.

Historical background

  • During the Cold War, the Indo-Pacific was divided into different spheres of influence and military theatres.
  • Whether it was the monsoon winds– or our maritime and trading history, we found it impossible to see the Horn of Africa and the Straits of Malacca on the other as disconnected.
  • The first for this is that the Indian peninsula, which thrusts into the Indian Ocean and gives us two magnificent coasts and near limitless maritime horizons to both our east and our west.
  • Monks and merchants, culture and cargo have travelled from India on those waters, to our east, west and south.
  • India’s great religious traditions, such as Buddhism, spread far and wide in the Indo-Pacific.
  • These experiences are our past and are our future; these experiences determine our concept of the Indo-Pacific.

Why is the Indo-Pacific crucial?

  • The interconnectedness of the Indo-Pacific is finally coming into full play.
  • A motivating factor is the region’s emergence as a driver of international trade and well-being.
  • The Indo-Pacific ocean system carries an estimated 65 per cent of world trade and contributes 60 per cent of global GDP.
  • Ninety per cent of India’s international trade travels on its waters.
  • For us, and for many others, the shift in the economic trajectory from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific has been hugely consequential.
  • The rise of China and the imperative for a global rebalancing have added to the mix.
  • A rules-based international order is achievable only with a rules-based Indo-Pacific.

India’s Indo-Pacific strategy

  • India’s Indo-Pacific strategy was enunciated in 2018 as the SAGAR doctrine.
  •  SAGAR is an acronym for “Security and Growth for All in the Region”.
  • This aspiration depends on securing end-to-end supply chains in the region; no disproportionate dependence on a single country; and ensuring prosperity for all stakeholder nations.
  • An Indo-Pacific guided by norms and governed by rules, with freedom of navigation, open connectivity, and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, is an article of faith for India.
  • Using this Initiative, India plans to support the building of a rules-based regional architecture resting on seven pillars. These are:1) Maritime security
    2) Maritime ecology
    3) Maritime resources
    4) Capacity building and resource sharing
    5) Disaster risk reduction and management
    6) Science, technology and academic cooperation
    7) Trade connectivity and maritime transport
  • We have sought to strengthen security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific by becoming a net security provider – in the Gulf of Aden.
  • Sharing what we can, in equipment, training and exercises, we have built relationships with partner countries across the region.
  • In the past six years, India has provided coastal surveillance radar systems to half a dozen nations – Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
  • All of these countries also use Indian patrol boats, as do Mozambique and Tanzania.
  •  Mobile training teams have been deputed to 11 countries.
  • Located just outside New Delhi, the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region has enhanced maritime domain awareness among partner countries.
  • India has also promoted and contributed to infrastructure, connectivity, economic projects and supply chains in the region.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

  • Notable humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions in the Indo-Pacific in recent years have included Operation Rahat in Yemen in 2015.
  • Whether it was the cyclone in Sri Lanka in 2016 or deaths and large-scale displacement of people that occurred in Madagascar in January this year, Indian assistance and an Indian ship have never been far away.
  • The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)is intrinsic to India’s regional and global commitment to taking on climate change.


Whatever the navigation map, the fact that the Indo-Pacific is the 21st century’s locus of political and security concerns and competition, of growth and development, and of technology incubation and innovation is indisputable.

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