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Sino-Indian Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    8th Oct, 2019

As the world’s centre-of-gravity shifts from the West to the East, the Indo-Pacific has emerged as a region of immense interest for major global players. While there may not be consensus on the geographical scope of the Indo-Pacific, there are a number of areas for multi-lateral cooperation and growth.

Issue

Context

As the world’s centre-of-gravity shifts from the West to the East, the Indo-Pacific has emerged as a region of immense interest for major global players. While there may not be consensus on the geographical scope of the Indo-Pacific, there are a number of areas for multi-lateral cooperation and growth.

Background

  • The Indo-Pacific region is a geopolitical area that spans two regions of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Stretching from the west coast of the United States to the west coast of India, the Indo-Pacific is a 24 nations’ regional framework comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia.
  • Since 2011, the term “Indo-Pacific” is being used increasingly in the global strategic/ geopolitical discourse. As a framework, the Indo-Pacific seeks to create a connected multipolar region that must be governed by commonly agreed international norms, rules and practices.
  • The term “Indo-Pacific” refers to the maritime space stretching from the Indian Ocean, across the littorals of East Asia to the western Pacific Ocean.

Analysis

Differing interpretations of Indo-Pacific region

  • India and Japan – India and Japan interprets the Indo-Pacific to extend from the western coast of continental America to the eastern coast of continental Africa. They underscore the centrality of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The United States – According to US Department of Defence’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, Indo-Pacific is defined as “spanning a vast stretch of the globe from the west coast of the United States to the western shores of India,...”, i.e., it does not include the shores of Africa or the Gulf countries as part of the Indo-Pacific.
  • ASEAN - Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) refer to the Indo-Pacific as the “wider Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions”

China’s Concerns

China sees the American pivot to the Indo-Pacific as a military move against it. It views the American interest in the region as being aimed at containing her in the South China Sea region. Mutual mistrust has led to unease in the region.

One way of enhancing intra-regional trust is deepening cooperation on common concerns.

Avenues for India-China Cooperation

  • Illicit Trafficking

Issues

    • The trafficking of humans, timber, wildlife, and drugs is rampant in this region.
    • The infamous Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle lie in this region.
    • Wildlife and forest crime is one of the biggest transnational organised crimes in the East Asia and Pacific region.

Indo-China cooperation

    • India and China should take the lead in creating regional/sub-regional mechanism to address these issues.
    • Sub-regional financial intelligence mechanisms need to be created to identify and disable the trafficking networks.
    • India and China should focus on capacity-building in those countries which have the will but not necessarily the resources to combat this menace.
    • A strong, unified, whole-of-region/whole-of-sub-region response focusing on border management, legal framework, and practical applicability of laws is required.

  • Natural Disasters/Environmental Issues

Issues

    • The Indo-Pacific is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and thus it is prone to earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural calamities.
    • The islands and low-lying areas are especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming.
    • According to a 2015 United Nations report, the five countries hit by the highest number of disasters were US, China, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia – all in the Indo-Pacific

Indo-China cooperation

    • Need is to broaden and deepen the cooperation in disaster mapping, monitoring, response, climate change, disaster management, etc.
    • China and India are leading the increase in greening on land and these two countries should initiate a whole-of-region greening plan so that the entire Indo-Pacific becomes a greener region.
    • Other green initiatives, such as a plastic-free Indo-Pacific, should also be given a fillip by investing in biodegradable plastic.
  • Health Issues

Issues

    • Many of the major infectious diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, influenza, tuberculosis, etc. are endemic to the Indo-Pacific.
    • Newly emerging viruses such as Hendra and Nipah are also endemic to the Indo-Pacific.

Indo-China cooperation

    • A whole-of-region approach with emphasis on increased collaboration between the scientific, medical, and pharmacological communities will help the cause.
    • India should take up the cause of popularising Ayurveda in the Indo-Pacific as microbes are not known to develop resistance against Ayurvedic medicines.

  • Terrorism

Issues

    • Many countries in the Indo-Pacific, including China and India, have been victims of terrorism.
    • China had stated in a paper that terrorist attacks had caused “heavy casualties and property damage.
    • There are reports that South East Asia has become the new breeding ground for Islamic State terrorists.

Indo-China cooperation

    • The countries in the Indo-Pacific should put up a joint front against terrorism.
    • It should involve demonstrable action against terrorists and no shielding of terrorists in any way at any forum.

Conclusion

India envisions the Indo-Pacific as an arc of prosperity. The first and foremost requirement for prosperity is stability. Problems of piracy, weapons proliferation, governance issues in certain countries, refugee problems, terrorism, etc. are destabilising factors. China and India, along with other countries in the Indo-Pacific need to work towards addressing these issues and ensuring that there is transparency, accountability, freedom of navigation/over-flight, access to commons, stability, and adherence to international laws in the region

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