The journal International Relations of the Asia Pacific in 2013 in an article has considered how the concept of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a region is impacting on Australia’s strategic discussions about regional identity, regional role and foreign policy practices. Excerpts below:

The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ refers to the Indian Ocean and Pacific oceans in its broader sense; more narrowly (and meaningfully?) consisting of the East Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean as interlinked waters with the South China Sea as a middle intervening stretch.

The article argued quite simply that such an ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept, particularly in its narrower sense of the East Indian Ocean-South China Sea-Western Pacific Ocean continuum, has become an increasingly influential framework, a compelling strategic logic for Australia to shape its military strategy and strategic partnerships.

In January 2013 the official National Security Strategy document (Strong and Secure – A Strategy for Australia’s National Interest ) noted that while ‘the Asia–Pacific has been Australia’s primary strategic and economic frame of reference over recent decades … the term ‘Indo–Pacific’ has emerged more recently’ (Government of Australia 2013, p. 30). The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ moves from a geographical to a geopolitical framework through the idea of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a mental map to propound emerging geopolitical realities

It is noticeable that the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has been increasingly deployed in a geopolitically-charged way by both US and Indian figures in recent years, and with it increasing US-Indian maritime cooperation in Indo-Pacific waters.

Below is a profile of the Indo-Pacific strategic concept:

Trade routes … drawing links again between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. That is one reason why today it makes more sense to think of the Indo Pacific, rather than East Asia or even the Asia Pacific, as the crucible of Australian security. This broader definition returns India to Asia’s strategic matrix. It connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans, thereby underlining the crucial role that the maritime environment is likely to play in our future strategic and defence planning … The Indo Pacific represents the centre of gravity of Australia’s economic and strategic interests. It includes our top nine trading partners. It embraces our key strategic ally, the US, as well as our largest trading partner, China. It reinforces India’s role as a strategic partner for Australia and it brings in the big Asian economies of Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam as well as the diplomatic and trade weight of ASEAN.

The ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept is in one sense merely a geographical framework, a concept that already exists with regard to study of marine science and hydrological surveys in these adjacent waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. With its common theme of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and energy flows, the Indo-Pacific is also a geoeconomic concept in which piracy-jihadist disruption affects its centre point of the Strait of Malacca, and on which Australia can cooperate with other concerned powers, including China. As China and India continue their economic rise, and their maritime trade flows, so the Indo-Pacific waters maintains an economic significance for Australia and others. In another sense the ‘Indo-Pacific’ is a profoundly geopolitical and geoeconomic concept, which is already being pushed elsewhere, in particular by India and the United States . The concept’s maritime nature gives a greater impetus to the application of seapower geopolitics (Mahan and Corbett come to mind), and shape the choices for deployment and placement of assets by Australia for the Pacific and India Oceans as one strategic space. The Indo-Pacific concept also points to development of strategic partners, particularly India and the US, who from their respective Indian Ocean and Pacific settings are also increasingly operating Indo-Pacific maritime strategies and cooperating together on an Indo-Pacific basis. Australia could fit into such a convergence, with a central Indo-Pacific role linking not only the two oceans, but the two leading democracies from each ocean, India and the US.


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    • gautic01 Says:

      Yes, I agree, and it is important that Australia continues to focus on the Indian Ocean and the Pacific in its strategy.

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