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New Delhi Needs To Work Toward Demilitarization Of The Indo-Pacific Region – Analysis


Countries abutting the Indo-Pacific region ranging from the Southeast Asian littoral zone to the South Asian and the African littoral zone including small island nations such as Mauritius and Seychelles are considered strategically vital not only among growing powers of Asia such as China, India and Japan, the region figures prominently in the security concerns and strategic considerations among US, European countries specifically France and Australia as well. These powers are perceptibly becoming more assertive in the region both in economic and military terms.

While India’s strategic pre-eminence in the Indian Ocean region was assured by its geographic proximity and historical and cultural linkages, it sensed serious challenges to its privileged position from relatively more nascent but powerful Chinese sway in the region.

Further, in contrast to India’s economic engagements in Africa which have been led by the private sector and are rooted in deep commercial and cultural ties, China’s engagement largely focused on resources and infrastructure and moved in the shape of government-to-government lending.

In addition to the economic penetration of China in the Indo-Pacific region through Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) and Infrastructure-building (which could used both for civilian and military purposes), inauguration of its first overseas naval base in Djibouti in summer of 2017 in the African coast to acquisition Hambonttota port in Sri Lanka and development port facilities in Gwadar, Pakistan propelled a sense of urgency in New Delhi to contain Beijing’s alleged ‘String of Pearls’ strategy (containment strategy). In Maldives, news reports devoted considerable attention to speculations as to the dynamics of the India-China competition following the defeat of the Abdulla Yameen’s government by opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the September elections last year.

There has been a surge in the visits of the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the littoral countries in recent years. New Delhi’s launching of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (in partnership with Japan) in 2017 was viewed as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Seychelles in 2015 resulted in the signing of a 20-year pact with the nation to build an airstrip and a jetty for its navy on Assumption Island. New Delhi agreed to invest $550 million in building the base to secure its vessels and others in the southern Indian Ocean. However, President Danny Faure of the Seychelles informed parliament later that he would not take up the Assumption Island project with India which was viewed New Delhi’s defeat to Beijing in the strategic competition in the region.

In an effort to enhance its footprint in the Southeast Asian shores, India while signed a deal with Singapore to expand its access to Changi naval base in November 2017, it undertook efforts to enhance its influence in the African shores by contributing to the development of Agaléga in Mauritius with dual-use logistical facilities as well. New Delhi has also sought to enhance its role in its own territorial shores with a focus on developing 10 priority projects, including a planned transshipment hub at Campbell Bay in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Possibilities of Enhanced Military Confrontations

While the small countries in the region were seen aspiring for maintaining neutrality and independence amid strategic competition among the major powers on the one hand, India-China strategic competition in the region has facilitated greater intervention from the external powers in the Indian Ocean giving rise to varied power configurations and alliances and enhanced possibilities of military confrontations on the other.

For instance, India and France were witnessed signing the “reciprocal logistics support” agreement as part of which warships of both the nations would have access to each other’s naval bases in the Indian Ocean. The Indo-Pacific thrust in the American foreign policy and mutual desire to contain and roll back Chinese influence in the region, India and the US signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018, facilitating access to each other’s designated military facilities for refueling and supplies, sensitive technology transfer and interoperability.

The members of the Quad, involving the United States, Japan, Australia and India are not only meeting frequently in recent months to discuss and pass resolutions reinvigorating their role in maintaining free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific, possibilities of their enhanced military profile and security strategies have grown as well. Washington’s robust military presence in the Pacific has been secured by military bases ranging from Guam in Micronesia to Okinawa (a string of islands in the East China Sea that belong to Japan) and its influence in the larger Indo-Pacific region has been maintained by robust naval presence spanning from Bahrain to Singapore with Diego Garcia in the middle.

On the other side, La Réunion, located in the south-west of Mauritius, has remained the centre of French naval military operations in the Indian Ocean. India has sought agreements with Australia, France and the US to gain access to bases such as Cocos Islands (Australia) and La Réunion (France).

The US decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty which aimed at eliminating conventional and nuclear missiles ranging from 500 to 5,500 km from the American and Soviet (now Russian) arsenals will contribute to Chinese speculations about the American military designs in the Indo-Pacific.

While on the one hand, China would take steps to enhance its deterrence capacities in the region, the US and other major powers have now greater leeway in breaching them. Unless a fresh treaty to contain conventional and nuclear ambitions of these powers comes into existence, possibilities of military confrontations will rise further. Efforts toward demilitarizing the Indo-Pacific region and promoting it as a ‘zone of peace’ must be considered crucial by New Delhi in this context.

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Dr. Manoj Kumar Mishra

Dr. Manoj Kumar Mishra has a PhD in International Relations from the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad. He is currently working as a Lecturer in Political Science, S.V.M. Autonomous College, Odisha, India. Previously, he worked as the Programme Coordinator, School of International Studies, Ravenshaw University, Odisha, India. He taught Theories of International Relations and India’s Foreign Policy to MA and M.Phil. students.

5 thoughts on “New Delhi Needs To Work Toward Demilitarization Of The Indo-Pacific Region – Analysis

  • February 11, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    India is making exhaustive efforts to get hold over Iranian Chabahar port with the intent to accrue some lucre from the anticipated dividends of the Gwadar port. In this regard, India trying its maneuverability to outplay Sino-Pak collaboration and seems eager to play a decisive role in completing America’s ‘containment of China’ diagram. So much so that to vanquish Chinese Belt and Road initiative, US has accelerated its work on the ‘New Silk Road’ in which India’s pivotal role has been expected. India is happened to have fully trusted in the theory of ‘relative gains’ of Intentional Politics as far as its matters with Pakistan and China are concerned.

    • February 12, 2019 at 7:51 am

      Rabia, you keep up unproven and discredited theories and never explain the logic behind them ever.

      1. How will Gwadar help?
      2. how has pakistan prepared a workforce in anticipation of Chinese manufacturing investment?
      3. what are bigger investments in human capital and infra that pakistan is making?

      I am yet to see one pakistani answer this with any level of seriousness. China has built infra for supporting its military and to export goods into pakistan. How different is this from the old exploitative heydays of the east India co.? are the results of the past 7 years not visible? esp. PKR 140?

      repeating the same lie over and over does not change reality. India cannot unilaterally disarm. we kept up with that shouting till 1990 and saw how the brutal realpolitik by global powers hit us. Why cannot China disarm by the same logic or pakistan in the interest of global peace?

  • February 11, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Although for the greater interest of the world India should move towards demilitarization from the indo-pacific. But, India will pursue its own interests in navigating through the geo-strategic rivalry between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific.

  • February 13, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Stop begging. The US has already help India a lot by importing all these low IQ people (aka best and brightest IT talents) into US and in the process displacing Americans their jobs and destroying US companies one by one.

    India is a land grabber immediately the moment it was created (the country wants to be a poor man version of the Raj) and has been bullying and land grabbing its neighbors left and right, including China (South Tibet/Arunachal Pradesh) when it was weak. Now China is rising and it is only natural that India is concerned that its increasing strong neighbor wanting to get its land back. But whose fault is that? Today India is hated and resented by all its smaller neighbors because of its bullying and meddling manner. If India wants to live in a peaceful neighborhood it could do so simply by getting out of the many land it has annexed. Getting out of Sikkim (an independent Himalayan Buddhist kingdom annexed in 1975) would be a good start.

  • February 23, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    India may play a role in encouraging other countries of the region desiring independence and neutrality or help inculcate values of peace among them to work toward demilitarisation amid this strategic competition rather than be a party to it


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