The second ministerial meeting of the four-nation Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) in Tokyo on October 6 has been followed by a decision to include Australia in the Malabar 2020 naval exercise after a gap of 13 years.
The threat posed by China to the geo-strategic and geo-economic landscape of the Indo-Pacific region ranks alongside the challenge of the pandemic in terms of disruption. The pandemic has stoked Chinese aggression, from the East and South China Seas to eastern Ladakh, but it has also provided others with opportunities to cooperate in maritime security, cyber-security, data flows, quality infrastructure and healthcare.
That the “Indo-Pacific” concept has gained fresh currency should not come as a surprise. It is an inclusive and representative term that reflects the contemporary interconnectedness of trade, technology and supply chains in a wider region. By comparison, the “Asia-Pacific” represented the trans-Pacific strategic and economic impulses after World War II, and was confined to East and South-east Asia.
Moreover, the Indo-Pacific is being redefined, ironically, by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), debt-trap diplomacy, fictional territorial claims and a divide-and-rule strategy. The historical experience of Indo-Pacific strategies of the colonial age can help provide deeper insight into the malefic impact of China’s neo-colonialism.
Beijing views the “Indo-Pacific” as a direct threat to the BRI, and in classical wei qi calculus, as an “encirclement” strategy.