Updated: Oct 24
Indo-Pacific region is ‘engine’ of global trade ~ PM Narendra Modi
In the complex realm of international relations, the Indo-Pacific region has emerged as a focal point for geopolitical manoeuvre and strategic cooperation. India's Indo-Pacific strategy is impacted by China's expansionism and growing political, military, and economic links to the area.
Illustration by The Geostrata
India has formed an Indo-Pacific policy to restrain China's rise while fortifying ties in response to a changing security environment and the acknowledgement of the Indo-Pacific region. Through partnerships, this strategy helps India overcome its capacity limitations and protect its strategic interests. Although this cooperation is still growing, it is already distinguished by shared objectives, teamwork, and a variety of bilateral agreements.
In the years following the end of the Cold War, India enjoyed a position of relatively unchallenged strategic influence in the Indian Ocean. This allowed them to shape the region in mutual consensus with the nations in the IOR, ensuring a secure and advantageous situation for all.
However, with China's rise as a major player in global affairs, including increasing economic and military power, India has been forced to reassess its foreign policy in this region.
Security cooperation is a vital component of India-US strategies in the Indo-Pacific region. Pentagon, the iconic headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, serves as the nerve centre for national security and military strategy is one step ahead in making its command in this region and is working to deepen cooperation with India in the defence security domain.
The two nations collaborate through various means, such as joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and capacity-building programs. These efforts aim to strengthen their collective defence capabilities. An example of this collaboration is the Malabar naval exercise involving India, the US, Australia, and Japan. Through these exercises, they demonstrate their commitment to maritime security and interoperability.
Not only do these drills showcase their military preparedness, but they also emphasise their shared determination to uphold stability in the region.
India has emerged as a regional power and provider of security in the Indo-Pacific, thanks to its expanding capability for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Its participation in regional mechanisms has strengthened multilateral relationships and improved interoperability for faster crisis response.
KEY BILATERAL AGREEMENTS
India and the United States have established a foundation for their collaborative efforts in the Indo-Pacific through various bilateral agreements. One such agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), was signed in 2016, enabling both countries to utilise each other's facilities for refuelling and maintenance. This arrangement enhances their operational adaptability and promotes collaboration in maritime activities.
Their armed services can communicate securely and share data thanks to the 2018-established Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). Their ability to work together and cooperate during security emergencies is improved by this agreement. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which was signed in 2020, is centred on the sharing of geospatial intelligence, which improves situational awareness and makes it possible for better navigation, targeting, and disaster response.
SHARED STRATEGIC OUTLOOK
India and the Pentagon share a strategic outlook that emphasises a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Their cooperative efforts extend beyond bilateral cooperation to multilateral platforms.
India and the USA are key stakeholders in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, which also includes Australia and Japan. The Quad serves as a forum for consultation and collaboration on regional security challenges, disaster relief, infrastructure development, and vaccine distribution.
The time when The US Navy ship, the USNS Salvor, arrived near Chennai for repair work was a show of a strengthening Indo-US strategic partnership and maritime security. According to the US Consulate in Chennai, these developments will streamline the US government contracting processes for repair work while supporting India's goals of domestic production and logistics.
Under the Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA), shipyards are pre-approved for repair work on US Naval vessels after undergoing a thorough vetting process. The visit of the USNS Salvor to L&T Kattupalli shipyard marks an important milestone since signing of the agreement. The decision to conduct maintenance in India was discussed during the 2022 US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
In addition to security cooperation, India and the Pentagon understand the significance of economic connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region. The projects established under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have sparked concerns regarding debt reliance and geopolitical influence. To address these concerns, India has taken steps such as introducing initiatives like the Asian-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), an economic cooperation agreement between India, Japan, and several African countries.
Established in 2017, the AAGC focuses on digital connectivity, and cooperation, with an additional focus on enhancing capabilities and skills. Additionally, the Indian Navy's annual Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) is an international conference focused on regional maritime issues.
The fourth edition, IPRD-2022, has featured six sessions, including discussions on Maritime Security, Maritime Ecology, Maritime Resources, Disaster Risk-Reduction, Trade-Connectivity, and Capacity-building. These initiatives aim to foster sustainable development, promote connectivity, and enhance maritime security.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
While India and the Pentagon share common strategies in the Indo-Pacific, there are still challenges to overcome. China's growing military capabilities and economic influence significantly shape regional dynamics. Balancing cooperation and competition with China requires careful navigation. It is crucial to maintain consistent policies and sustain strategic commitments for long-term success.
By collaborating in the Indo-Pacific, India and the Pentagon demonstrate their dedication to upholding a rules-based international order.
Their strategic alignment stems from shared democratic values, overlapping interests, and a mutual understanding of collective responsibilities.
As they navigate the complexities of an ever-changing geopolitical landscape, their partnership is poised to grow stronger, fostering security, prosperity, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. This collaboration serves as a testament to the effectiveness of united objectives and coordinated actions in shaping global affairs.
BY NANDINI GOYAL