Updated: Nov 22
One of the key goals of foreign policy under the Obama administration was pivot towards East Asia. To align and balance emerging economies, trade developments, security and climate change concerns in the region. Read about the present Indo-Pacific Policy of the United States.
Illustration by The Geostrata
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE UNITED STATES INDO PACIFIC STRATEGY
November 2011: President Barack Obama addressed the Australian Parliament and announced “The United States has been and always will be, a Pacific nation and is turning its attention to the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region.” What followed came to be known as the Asia Pivot Strategy laying down the key fundamentals of the United States’ current Indo-Pacific strategy.
The strategy called for increasing the United States’ engagement with Asian democracies through bilateral security alliances, increasing commitments through multilateral partnerships, expanding trade relations with emerging democratic countries of Asia, and advancing military presence in the region. The strategy also articulates the need for building a cooperative relationship with China, a non-democratic rising power in the region.
This led to a change in the nomenclature of the region itself. Asia Pacific became Indo-Pacific to distinguish between the land-based nations of West Asia with the littoral countries within South Asia and South East Asia.
Despite all the criticisms and praises that the Asia Pivot strategy received, it forms the origin of the contemporary Indo-Pacific Policy discourse of the United States as it touched upon the key aspects that the United States have been building upon in the Indo-Pacific region in the last ten years.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”
Given the current expansive stance, the PRC shows in the region, Napoleon’s clairvoyance on China has been the cause of a growing security dilemma for all the nations within the Indo-Pacific driving their national security calculations and leading to the creation of a democratic consensus within the region for supporting free and open Indo-Pacific and respect of the rule of law as articulated by foreign policy decisions of Indo-Pacific democracies.
THE ALLIES OF THE UNITED STATES IN THE INDO PACIFIC REGION
The historical allies of the US: Japan, and South Korea often associated as the inner circle within the “hub and spoke model” of the security alliance of the Indo-Pacific, have aligned their national security equations as the US holds a historical commitment to protect these nations which have converted into the integration of their defence logistics be it in the critical technologies, the firepower capabilities or command and control structure.
The National Security Strategy declared by Japan at the beginning of 2023 summarises its core security concerns that align with the United States' declaration on Indo-Pacific Security. Similarly, the Foreign Policy White Paper published by the government of Australia shares similar security concerns that are articulated by Japan and the United States.
For South Korea, a core security concern is its nuclear-powered northern neighbour, North Korea termed as the “bad boy” of the Indo-Pacific.
Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has metastasized since the failure of the Six-Party Talks in 2009, reinforcing South Korea’s security dilemma and keeping South Korea under the nuclear security umbrella of the United States.
South Korea also receives advanced weapons systems such as F-35 fighter jets, Patriot Missiles, and THAAD anti-missile systems as a part of military support guaranteed by the United States since the failure of Six-Party Talks as a part of its “Extended Deterrence” strategy.
Subsequently, the United States, Japan, and South Korea are in talks to create a trilateral security alliance in the region as a plan to “Integrate” the “Extended Deterrence” amongst the allies of the Indo-Pacific.
According to the Pentagon, there are 56,000 US troops stationed in Japan and 36,000 in South Korea. There are 120 American military bases in Japan, and 73 bases in South Korea wholly or mutually operated by the US along with the host nation.
EXTENDING ALLIANCE IN INDO PACIFIC THROUGH MULTILATERAL SECURITY DIALOGUES
However, for increasing maritime domain awareness within the Indo-Pacific, the United States requires an extension of its alliance within the region. Nations like India and Australia which share the value of democracy with the US fall within the radar of the US Indo-Pacific security discourse.
Australia recently secured a deal of Virginia-class nuclear submarines under the ambit of the AUKUS group and a Swarm Drone deal as a part of the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Pillar Program which has developed an AI-enabled swarm of drones that can detect targets for ISR activities of the navy in the offshore patrolling through boats and frigates.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue has been successfully transformed into a working alliance in a bid to include India within the extended deterrence strategy.
However, India adopted an autonomous stance and continues to perceive QUAD as less of a security alliance and more of a group of democratic nations that shares the democratic consensus built in the Indo-Pacific security architecture.
Since then, QUAD’s focus has shifted to bettering the supply chain resilience of Indo-Pacific nations to ensure the free flow of goods and people as well as the maintenance of the rule of law in the region.
These supply chains also include semiconductors, rare earth minerals, telecom equipment, and other such critical technologies collectively produced by the markets of Indo-Pacific nations and consumed worldwide.
The United States also intends to diversify these supply chains which were once centred in the old allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
However, the emergence of industrialised nations like India and ASEAN member states like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam brings new opportunities for the productive forces of the US and its allies who can initiate a downward integration of their supply chains to these nations.
While the inclusion of India in the Indo-Pacific security pact remains questionable, its participation in the democratic consensus of the security architecture has surely increased the bandwidth of the Indo-Pacific supply chain given that India holds the highest number of population living under a democratically elected government and is home to a massive English-speaking and technically enabled youth population, a key human resource which cannot be ignored for increasing the resilience of the supply chain within the region.
ASEAN, TAIWAN AND PACIFIC ISLAND COUNTRIES
The ASEAN grouping is bound by the maintenance of its centrality in the South-East Asian security discourses. The grouping has critical economic value to the US foreign policy given the significant amount of capital investments that the United States and its European allies hold within their economies.
Within ASEAN, the Philippines and Thailand rely on the United States for their defence weapons and security logistics which can be traced back to the Cold War era commitments.
Also, Taiwan, often considered a flashpoint of US-China relations homes a behemoth semiconductor manufacturing industry on which all key logistics of modern warfare as well as modern civilian infrastructure rely.
The Pacific Island Countries (PIC) have been calling for greater dialogue on the global issue of climate change.
For PIC, climate change is a core security concern with critical repercussions that can jeopardise their territorial integrity due to rising sea levels. The concern can translate into a massive migration crisis if not handled proactively.
For PIC nations, the United States has launched a new Pacific Climate Partnership for financing climate adaptation and mitigation projects in the Pacific Islands. Further, there is also a dedicated Pacific Resilience Facility for small island nations to finance their projects for climate-resilient infrastructure.
The United States has also launched the Shiprider Program allowing Pacific island enforcement officers access to US Coastguard vessels and aircraft to patrol their exclusive economic zones.
BY NISARG JANI