Indo Pacific

The term Indo-Pacific which was first used in geo-political context by an Indian Navalist in a journal article. It was later used by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech in the Indian Parliament titled “Confluence of the Two Seas” in 2007. The term Indo-Pacific found its place in India’s official communiqués 2014 & recently Ministry of External Affairs has established an Indo-Pacific division within the ministry, considering India’s growing interests within that region.

Indo Pacific


  • Assertion for Free and Open Indo-Pacific by major powers can be considered a reaction to militarization of waters in Indo-Pacific, South China Sea (SCS) in particular, and emergence of Chinese economy and military across Asia & Africa. The assumption is that “freedom of navigation” is being or might be constrained by increased military presence in the SCS by China’s navy. It is worth noting that China continues to support the freedom of commercial shipping in the seas of the Indo-Pacific.
  • There is a fear among ASEAN members that Indo-Pacific is becoming a closed region due to major power rivalries including India, China, US and Japan and therefore ASEAN intends for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • As per Japan, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” seeks to improve “connectivity” between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. In pursuit of this, Japan aims to strengthen strategic collaboration with India, the US and Australia.
  • The US vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific has three components – economic, governance and security. The US seeks greater economic engagement with countries of the Indo-Pacific, maintenance of international law in Indo-Pacific region and primacy of U.S. navy and not of China in the region.


  • India put forth India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific at the Shangri La dialogue, 2018. The view was consistent with the overall norms enunciated by regional powers, including the US, Japan, Australia and Indonesia with the emphasis on ASEAN centrality in Indo-Pacific.
  • India has asserted that it will not take sides but chooses the side of values and principles which are commonly embraced with ASEAN based upon as Free & open Indo-Pacific.
  • India is evolving its regional role to encompass the Indo-Pacific and Eurasian region to ensure a balanced multipolar world.
  • India would continue to maintain its strategic autonomy irrespective of the prevailing geo-politics to ensure stability in power relations in Asian region among the great powers.
  • India will not be a part of closed group of nations or aggregate Indian power in any bloc and India’s friendship with any nation should not be mis-construed as an alliance.
  • India’s growing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region should not be considered anti-China.
  • India continues to maintain multi-literalism as form of foreign policy engagement with parallel interactions (E.g., SCO & Quad) based on respective common mutual interests.


  • Japan is primarily focused upon South China Sea, while India’s security is focused primarily towards Bay of Bengal and to Arabian Sea.
  • US does not follow ASEAN centrality in Indo-Pacific architecture. It has aligned with UK and Australia to form AUKUS which is a military partnership focusing on transfer of Nuclear submarine technology to Australia.
  • Chinese military installations have expanded towards Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, but India has not done similarly in South China and East Asia Sea.
  • India intends to become both a maritime & continental power in Asia, but Japan and USA are focused on maritime capability.
  • Major powers have constituted military alliances in Indo-Pacific region, but India has chosen not to indulge in military alliances.


With rise of China, India’s Foreign policy seems to focusing on strategic and military considerations which is visible in its collaboration with USA and renewed focus on Indo-Pacific and the Quadrilateral security dialogue. However, there are differences in the understanding of the concepts of Indo – Pacific and the Quadrilateral grouping. Further there are hurdles in India’s strategy with regards to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad. So let us understand, the issues faced by India and what should be India’s approach to clearly outline its interest in the Indo-Pacific and the Quad. Indo – Pacific vs Quad: Indo-Pacific is a grand politico-economic vision while Quad is a forum for common issues in the region concerning India, U.S., Australia and Japan.


  • Quad members are major States in Indo-Pacific region, and both Quad and Indo-Pacific constructs are focused on China.
  • They are also in some ways centered around India’s geographic location and its policies.


  • The Indo-Pacific provides a complex political and economic construct aimed challenging China strategically. The Quad on the other hand is inherently more anti-China in character and intent.
  • The Indo-Pacific has subtle anti-China undertones. But the Quad’s ability to succeed would entirely depend on China — the more aggressive China gets, the more resolute the Quad countries would be in strengthening it.


  • For a politico-economic construct such as the Indo-Pacific to survive, there must be strong economic partnerships and linkages among its members.
  • Merely focusing on strategic talk will not work.


  • India’s recent decision not to join Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), region’s flagship free trade arrangement, could potentially complicate its future engagements in the region.
  • There is huge gap between India and China on trade with every Indo-Pacific country.
  • This growing trade gap that India and China have with these countries will be a major determining factor in shaping the region’s strategic realities.
  • Further India’s decision not to sign on to the RCEP also needs to be viewed in the broader context of the Chinese institutional engagement of the region.
  • India does not have FTAs with New Zealand, the U.S., Bangladesh and the Maldives. It has FTAs with South Korea, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, Japan and Sri Lanka.
  • In the case of China, it has FTAs with all these countries barring the U.S.
  • This shows that economic compulsions will go a long way in shaping strategic realities for a variety of reasons including that trade with China is crucial for the economies of these States.
  • Thus, strategic talks need to be aligned with the economic realities for the success of the Indo-Pacific.


  • Even on this front India lags China.
  • China is a major defence supplier to several region’s States including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
  • While India has minimal sales, defence dialogues and occasional joint military exercises in the region. However, India’s decision to supply Brahmos to Philippines is a step in the right direction.


  • India’s role in the Indo-Pacific will remain limited if it does not prove to be a major economic partner to these States.
  • But given the economic slowdown in India today in the wake of COVID-19 and the Ukraine crisis led global slowdown (compared to the much better place that China is in), India’s ability to economically engage with the region remains limited.
  • On the military-strategic side too, India’s performance in the region is less than desirable.
  • Further, it is said that the only way forward for India is a regional strategic alliance with the US.
  • But given the hangover its non-alignment principles and Material constraints India will need fresh mindset to do so.
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