Agenda 2020 – Indo Pacific – Lower Traction Due to Uncertainty and Disruption
21st Century is identified as the Asian Century, Indo Pacific, a subset of the Asia Pacific may face challenges living up to the expectation.
Other regional complexes and continents are gaining attention while attenuated geo-political and regional developments apart from disruptions and uncertainty denote that 2020 may not see the same level of commitment as in the previous years.
A review of the main drivers of progression, as given below, may highlight the same.
Firstly one of the notable events in the year will be the Presidential elections; this will lead to reduced American attention and commitment externally. Rising Iran and US tensions post the killing of the principal commander of the IRGC Quds Force Qassem Soleimani may be another factor that may lead to US focus in West Asia and the Middle East.
QUAD the dialogue forum between Australia, Japan, India and the United States may also not see the surge of 2019 as members will be engaged in internal and bilateral issues. US elections, Australia coping with bush fires and climate change, India with the political disruptions set in motion by Modi 2.0 would imply that the forum may not reach the next level.
US-China competition will continue mainly in the economic and trade sphere. In contrast, China will continue to focus on expanding its presence in the region by engaging with smaller partners who have been the Chinese hallmark in the area. Myanmar and African states on the eastern coast may receive attention from Beijing.
ASEAN will project the vision in the region which may face resistance from the more significant unitary powers and bilateral enterprises even though the concept of the centrality of the only useful regional grouping is primarily accepted.
India’s foreign policy is turning from being assertive to aggressive with risk-taking as identified by the Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishanker recently.
India will not be constrained by the economic slow down if Jaishanker’s pronouncements are to be adopted and will be willing to confront other stakeholders in establishing a stronger footprint.
Internal instabilities, however, will continue to hamper New Delhi apart from the reluctance to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership the umbrella free trade agreement (FTA) that co-joins the region with China centrality.
India is also attempting to assume Indian peninsular centrality by expanding towards West Asia which again may have ramifications on the ASEAN centrality as well as will be impacted by instability unleashed in this belt post the Soleimani assassination.
Japan will continue to sustain a commitment to the Indo Pacific with multiple partners as the US and India, even as national programmes of development and security assistance will also be pursued vigorously.