Importance of Indo-Pacific in the new multipolar world order

Prateek Chopra | Updated: December 19, 2020, 1:50 IST

India established Indo-Pacific in the new multipolar world order to couter China

The evolution of world from a multilateral one, which was being led by the West, to a more plurilateral one, which offers a relatively more level playing field to other nations, is giving rise to a multipolar world that we are witnessing today.

Multipolarity, in the arena of international relations, is regarded as a sharing of power among more than two countries, not necessarily democracies, which command a similar volume of military, cultural, and economic influence.

The days of the past had exhibited that just a few countries from the West could dictate the terms on how the world would function, but today’s world is characterised by the fact that we are seeing more ‘regional superpowers’, specially after seeing how COVID has exposed the West. China, and, one can say, India are two noteworthy examples which show a shift in power balance from West to the Global South.

The shift in economic balance of power was largely initiated due to one of the biggest economic downturn the world has seen – The Financial Crisis of 2008. It prompted the West to share its influence in geo-politics. Resultantly, we saw a more open and larger international forum in the form of G20 group of countries.

Therefore, the events of 2008 paved the way for an economic rebalancing of the world which ultimately got translated into a political rebalancing of the world.

Moreover, the last three decades have been marked by growing nationalistic approach by several countries like the US, China, and others. These countries have prioritised their own interests while making foreign and economic policies, and naturally so.

The weakening of multilateralism, coupled with the rising of nationalistic attitude gave way to a multipolar world - a world where there are not one, not two, but many ‘super powers’, a stark do away with the bi-polar world that we had observed during the time of the Cold War.

This is a world where countries are going beyond pre-determined alliances to make new groupings that have mutual interests and can share the global burden. We have seen the soon-to-be former President of the US, Donald Trump, putting forth the idea of a G10/11 because G7 got “outdated”, and the incumbent Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, who was scheduled to go on an important visit (now cancelled due to COVID) to India, talking about enlarging the scope of G7 to a D10, which is a group of 10 Democracies.

What do G10/11 and D10 have in common?

G7 is a group of seven countries, namely US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan. Now, both Trump and Johnson want India, Australia, and South Korea to be a part of the G7. The West is looking to counter the authoritarian and expansionist regime of China, and it will have to work together with more strategic coalitions, and more importantly, with the above mentioned three countries.

India, South Korea, and Australia are the three major economies present in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. Thus, the West has a vested interest in perhaps the most relevant region called the Indo-Pacific.

Importance of Indo-Pacific

Indian Ocean Region, or one can also say the Indo-Pacific region, is becoming a hotspot of regional and global dominance due to its increasing economic and strategic importance, and China has started flexing its muscles in the region, creating an obstacle in rule-based international order.

QUAD countries – US, India, Australia, and Japan - holding joint naval drills for the first time in the region, Germany announcing to send a warship in Indian Ocean as part of plans to contain the China’s growing authoritarian influence in the region, European countries formulating Indo-Pacific strategy against the backdrop of China’s increasing belligerence towards its neighbours in Asia, and Australia increasing its military expenditure to $270B to build larger and more technologically advanced defence forces are the events reflecting that Indo-Pacific region is crucial for foreign policy of countries, which want to save the international law & order to create prosperous, free, and safe ocean environment.

The vast maritime space stretching from the western coast of North America to the eastern shores of Africa is popularly known as Indo-Pacific. The term became popular in international politics as India highlighted the importance of the region, both economically and strategically, to draw the attention of world leaders and policy-makers.

“India not just mainstreamed the expression Indo-Pacific but, more substantially, encouraged others to perceive and define the region in its full extent", said Foreign Secretary Shringla.

India becoming a part of a fractionated UNSC gives it more say in shaping the discourse at the high table. India faces its own set of opportunities and challanges at the UNSC, but it is slowly and steadily turning the eye of the world towards the Indo-Pacific region.

“In the past, the Indo-Pacific concept was seen as an Asian concept with Western Europe keeping a safe distance. Now, the gloves are off.” Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College, London said.

India had done its bit to link western countries to the Indo-Pacific, and put forth the idea that the Indo-Pacific is not a regional construct, but a global issue.

The West will increase its footprint in Indo-Pacific to safeguard the democratic values of navigation in the sea, and there is no better partner than India. Thus, making Indo-Pacific an area of strategic importance in the new multipolar world order.

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