Indo-Pacific is a construct of the 21st Century having received much attention in the second decade promoted by successive American Presidents, but one that has great resonance for India. One of the reasons why India has embraced the term is because ‘Asia-Pacific’ is seen by many to exclude India, even though China’s rise affects everybody in the region. So, this is a way for India to include itself in the Asia-Pacific, and for the Asia-Pacific to bring India into the mix. This is only natural. Given its geographical location above the Indian Ocean, India’s role cannot be ignored.
A country with a vast coastline of 7,500 kilometres and 1,380 islands, more than two million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone, and emerging blue water naval capabilities, will have an important role to play irrespective of geographical or definitional issues.
But it should also be noted that the Indo-Pacific plays out almost entirely as a maritime construct rather than a continental one.
In one of its earliest articulations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted the Indo-Pacific concept when he addressed a joint session of the Indian Parliament in 2007. As he spoke about the confluence of the two seas, he said “The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity. A ‘broader Asia’ that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about the Indo-Pacific concept recently at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018. He said: “India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is a positive one … 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.”
[Source World Economic Forum Website]
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