As a largest continent, Asia possesses a diversified geography. In that geographical context, the maritime boundaries of the continent touch the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. With the growing aggressive expansionist policy of China, the confluence of the oceans became a prominent stage of a strategic competition called the Indo-Pacific. Soon, it became the need of the hour to maintain freedom in the region.
So, almost all the power centers in the world are crafting their policies regarding the Indo-Pacific. As a result, multilateralism got a new boost. Moreover, India has emerged as a reliable partner for dealing with possible uncertainties in the near future. Western countries, on the other hand, need to orient themselves according to the needs of the region by rising above their vested interests and differences.
Indo-Pacific power play among major powers
On March 13-14, the naval forces of India, France, Australia, the USA, and Japan participated in the La Perouse exercise. The exercise is taking place in the Indian Ocean with the French Navy in charge. Personnel, ships, and integral helicopters of the Royal Australian Navy, Indian Navy, Japanese maritime self-defense force, and United States Navy are taking part in the maritime powerplay.
The main aim of the exercise is to enhance cooperation in the seas along with dominating the maritime domain. The exercise is also significant for brushing up the operative preparedness of the participating Navy personnel. But the biggest thrust of the exercise, as perceived by the scholars, is its deterrence of growing Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific as a whole and the South China Sea in particular. But let us first look at the past developments of this exercise.
Also read: India is ready to lock horns with China in the Indo-Pacific
La Perouse Exercise
It is a biennial exercise that started in 2019. The first exercise was held in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of India. The exercise involved a series of naval drills, including surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and air defence exercises. Additionally, the participating navies conducted joint maneuvers, such as replenishment-at-sea and communication drills. The exercise demonstrated the high level of coordination and cooperation between the naval forces of four countries.
After 2 years in 2021, the exercise took place for the second time in the waters of the eastern Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic at that time, the exercise was conducted in a “non-contact, at sea only” format. However, the exercise turned out to be a success, with the participating countries improving their interoperability.
Situations in the Indo-Pacific
It is a well known fact that the South-China Sea is facing challenges because of China’s claim over the majority of the region on the basis of its ‘Nine-dash line’. The main reason for such a claim is covered by the ancient territorial extent of mainland China but in reality it is more based on current luring trade routes through the region. Control of the sea routes would give China a significant command over world trade.
As the South China Sea lies at the center of the Indo-Pacific,all stakeholders in the region are interested in the region’s stability for their mutual benefits. This has given rise to discussions on rules based order, freedom of navigation, peace and stability of the region and supply chain resilience. In a nutshell, the policy towards the region is ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’.
There are many multilateral alliances, dialogues, and forums involving the western countries, ASEAN, and India. Some of the prominent organizations aiming at the Indo-Pacific region are QUAD, AUKUS, and IPEF, among others. Still, there are 3 trends in the foreign policy regarding the region.
Foreign policy approach in the region
Out of the three trends, the first group believes in a containment strategy, which includes countries like Japan. The second group envisages cooperating with China and together with other regional and outside powers, most notably the US and the EU, like the ASEAN, and finally, a third group believes that Indo-Pacific states should act independently of both China and the US and rebalance both of them.
This trifurcation is often difficult to understand because of the fluidity of international relations. But one thing is pretty clear: western actors are not unified in their attempts to reach the Indo-Pacific. This is simple because of their individual, sinister interests.
United by idea, divided by interests
Under the framework of the Quad, India, the USA, Japan, and Australia are active, but the security dialogue is progressing at a slow pace because of the heterogeneities in the national economies. Thus, Japan has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while India’s membership in the ASEAN-based Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is strengthening its economic ties with China.
The other members, Australia and the USA, have formed another alliance called AUKUS with the UK, which barred France. This led to resentment in France for two reasons. First for isolating it from the Indo-Pacific partnership and, secondly, stealing its deal of diesel submarines with Australia.
The country that will be worst hit by any aggression by China is Japan, which has bad relations with both China and Russia. Along with that, India emerged as a peaceful center in the region that, because of its immense potential, cannot be neglected. Still, it opted out of the trade pillar of IPEF. These all uncertainties have incurred unsuccessful and withered effects on the region.
La Perouse is a chance
Although it is not visible as happening in the near future, But La Perouse’s exercise can resolve these hitches in the Indo-Pacific. The exercise that is in charge in France is actually the only framework in the region where all western colliding powers come under one roof to address the challenges of the Indo-Pacific. This gives immense possibilities for all the stakeholders to revalidate their approach to whether they want a free and open Indo-Pacific or not. Because the cause can only be fulfilled with a unified voice. The west must understand that the need of the hour is to sort out their differences.
Support us to strengthen the ‘Right’ ideology of cultural nationalism by purchasing the best quality garments from TFI-STORE.COM
Leave a Reply