From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Blue Dot network
Mains level : Paper 2- Indo-Pacific region
The visit by United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to Southeast Asia in December 2021 underscores the importance that is being accorded to this region by the Joe Biden administration.
Take aways from the visit
 Projecting the US as reliable partner
- The idea was to present the U.S. as a reliable partner in meeting the challenges that the Indo-Pacific region is facing.
- For instance, completely aware that the Southeast Asian nations are averse to choosing sides in this U.S.-China competition, Mr. Blinken made it a point to mention that “individual countries will be able to choose their own path and their own partners.
 Tackling China challenge
- Both China and the U.S. are trying to lure the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries to their side — China with its grand economic infrastructure investment deals and the U.S. through recent high profile official visits as well as through the Build Back Better World initiative and Blue Dot Network.
- In Southeast Asia, the U.S.-China competition is most visible in two areas; one is the South China Sea and the second is the investment in fulfilling the infrastructure development needs of Southeast Asian countries.
- The U.S. has continued its Freedom of Navigation operations in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
- In his remarks in Indonesia, Mr. Blinken stressed America’s determination “to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s aggressive actions there threaten the movement of more than $3 trillion worth of commerce every year”.
 Closing the gap on infrastructure
- Southeast Asia has been one of the top recipients of Chinese investments under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
- How these investments have driven countries such as Cambodia and Laos to do China’s bidding in the ASEAN even at the cost of compromising ASEAN’s unity is a known fact.
- Mr. Blinken reiterated that the U.S. remains committed to help close the gap on infrastructure.
- The infrastructure coordination group launched by the Quad members is seeking to catalyse even more investment and is looking to partner with Southeast Asia on infrastructure and many other shared priorities.
- Washington is promising to do more under the Build Back Better World initiative and the Blue Dot Network.
- The ASEAN countries, even after the release of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, do not have a uniform approach when it comes to dealing with the U.S. and China.
- These differing approaches are also challenging the much vaunted ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific.
- Though external players will have a limited role in ensuring that the unity within ASEAN is restored, providing proper alternative models of investments for development in sectors such as infrastructure, digital economy, supply chain, and health for the Southeast Asian nations will be critical.
The economic framework, investment plans and promises outlined need to be made operational quickly if Washington is to show that it is indeed serious about sustained commitment toward the Indo-Pacific.