Context: At a time when the focus of the international community is on public health and the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, one should also continue reflecting on the concept of the Indo-Pacific and see how it can best serve regional stability at a time of heightened tensions. 

Need of focus on Indo Pacific:

  • National security is multi-dimensional: Our national security depends not only on traditional security policies but also on our ability to foster multilateralism as well as the blue economy and environmental protection.
    • Traditional security policies, including the exchange of information and military cooperation against traditional and non-traditional threats, have in no way lost their relevance in a COVID-19 world.
  • The current crisis has  revealed the assertion of power politics: This is likely to have a negative impact on territorial disputes and international law, as the recent tensions in the South China Sea have shown.
  • The tensions between the United States and China have been revived: Accentuating regional faultlines and urging countries to take sides.
    • Assertive politics would go against the objective of multipolar Asia in the multipolar world.

India-France relations in this backdrop:

  • In this tumultuous context, France and India, as two nations that cherish their strategic autonomy, are committed to deepening their partnership.
    • France and India  have actually upgraded their naval interoperability through the organisation of the first-ever joint patrol off Reunion Island and the Mozambique Channel.
  • France’s Indo-Pacific strategy:
    • Joining and supporting regional organisations and mechanisms is a pillar of France’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
    • France is a candidate for full-fledged membership of the IORA, it supports the centrality of the ASEAN, and is committed to seizing the opportunities offered by other multilateral frameworks, such as the Asia-Europe Meeting, or the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which France is chairing for a two-year term.
      • France sees it as an opportunity to increase regional cooperation.
    • “Choose La Réunion Summit”: The key message was the blue economy and environmental protection should also be at the centre of our Indo-Pacific strategies.
    • True components of a long-term agenda for the Indo-Pacific: act “for something and not against somebody”. 
    • The French Development Agency (AFD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Ocean Rim Association for “Strengthening the Capacities of IORA in Promoting the Blue Economy and Fisheries Management”. 

Need of the hour:

  • Multilateralism, including in its regional dimension, regionalism, is all the more necessary since the Indo-Pacific is characterised by limited political integration and more intensely competing ideological narratives in the wake of public health crises.
    • Multilateralism is a tool that can help countries defuse tensions and build common understandings of shared challenges. 
  • Checking factors that have the potential to damage the social fabric of the people: Inequalities within societies, marginalisation of some coastal populations, and vulnerability to climate change may well be aggravated in the Indo-Pacific by short- and long-term factors, ranging from the COVID-19 crisis, uncooperative appropriation of natural resources, as well as climate change, which creates environmental insecurity. 

Indo Pacific

  • This concept is a shift from the Asia-Pacific (including North-east Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania), where India did not have a major role to play. 
  • The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) launched in 1989 did not include India, as did the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) launched in 1996, though India was admitted into ASEM in 2006. 
  • The acceptance of the Indo-Pacific as a single strategic construct linking the contiguous waters of the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean has gained currency in the last few years with the shift in the geopolitical center of gravity to this region.
  • The Indo-Pacific, sometimes known as the Indo-West Pacific or Indo-Pacific Asia, is a biogeographic region of Earth's seas, 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. It does not include the temperate and polar regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans, nor the Tropical Eastern Pacific, along the Pacific coast of the Americas, which is also a distinct marine realm.

Indian Ocean Rim Association

  • The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is a dynamic inter-governmental organisation which was established on 7 March 1997 .
  • It is aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region through its 22 Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners.
  • It includes a spectrum of issues including fisheries, aquaculture, seafood products, seaport and shipping, maritime connectivity, port management and operations, marine spatial planning, ocean forecasting, blue carbon, and renewable energy.


Image Source: nytimes