Indo-Pacific: Meaning and India’s Approach

The term Indo-Pacific denotes an economic and strategic community. Geographically it refers to the vast areas around Indian and the Pacific Oceans between the east coast of Africa and the American west coast and their several littoral countries.

Genesis of the Term
  • One of the earliest references to the term Indo-Pacific was noted in a paper written by Gurpreet Khurana, an Indian naval officer, on the congruence between Japanese and Indian strategic interests in protecting sea routes for energy security.
  • A similar narrative but not the exact term was used by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 when he said “broader Asia” in the “Confluence of Two Seas”.
  • Australia began giving traction to the term in 2011-2012 when it started to position itself to play a larger role in Asia, as an ally of the US and Japan, and as a country with friendly ties with China, India, Indonesia and South Korea among others.
  • The US National Security Strategy of 2017 defines the Indo- as a region where “geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place with China and North Korea on one side and all others on the other.
  • After US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke of a partnership between the US and India in the interests of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” in 2017, there was a widespread use of the word in international diplomacy. Even the recently concluded G20 summit at Japan gave a mention of Indo-Pacific.
India’s Approach

Indo-Pacific elevates India to a position of prominence in the region. This requires India to play a larger role in the region, for instance in the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that informally brings together for strategic talks and military exercises, the US, Japan, Australia and India. The US narrative sees Indo-Pacific as an attempt to counter China by promoting India.

Rather than Western narratives to the India-Pacific, India has sought to bring its own vision to the definition of Indo-Pacific. The narrative of the PM Modi in Shangri La dialogue summarises narrative of India-Pacific as “The Indo-Pacific is a natural region home to a vast array of global opportunities and challenges. India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members. Nor as a grouping that seeks to dominate. And by no means do we consider it as directed against any country. A geographical definition, as such, cannot be India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific Region. India’s narrative is a positive one.” Similar view was endorsed by the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s statement, during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Delhi.

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