India’s attention towards the Indo-Pacific region has been increasing gradually in the last few years. This recognition of the Indo-Pacific as a strategic crossroads linking the shores of the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean has crystallized as the geopolitical center of gravity has shifted to India and China in this region.
India’s earlier ‘Look East Policy’, which was introduced to pursue economic growth with the dynamic economies of Southeast Asia, has paved the way for the larger arena of the Asia-Pacific. India has developed strategic partnerships with several chief actors of the region as a part of its China policy, and for other reasons as well. India’s Indo-Pacific policy and its increased relationship with US and other allies was driven by its strategic concerns due to China’s rise in the region and it is bolstered by closer ties with the US, Japan and Australia.
India’s approach to the region through its Look East Policy initially took the form of economic engagement with Southeast Asia and is now expanding to strategic cooperation beyond the region to deal with China’s rise and its consequences. India has adopted a delicate policy of balancing China and maintaining cordial relations with this neighbor.
It is noteworthy that globalization, mutual trade inter-dependence, the integrated maritime realms and their changing nature in terms of several threats to security has reduced physical boundaries and raised awareness about the importance of secure maritime areas for the unobstructed flow of trade and the economy. In India’s view, the Indo-Pacific policy stretches from the African continent to the Americas, which extends India’s strategic scope from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean. India’s policy perspective on the Indo-Pacific reflects its desire to include allies, maintain an open global market and keep ASEAN central. India has also made great strides to situate this policy as an inclusive framework for the entire region.
The Indo-Pacific initiative encompasses continental and regional connectivity, augmenting maritime security, countering terrorist activities, non-proliferation, disarmament, cyber issues and most importantly, environmental security. All of these objectives have been endorsed by India as an active partner of the region.
As part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, India formed a strong association with the US, Australia and Japan through the Quad, re-affirming a shared commitment to strengthen support for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight, and sustainable development, in a November 2018 meeting in Singapore.
India developed the concept of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) to configure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region that is founded upon a cooperative and collaborative rules-based order. India’s exclusive projects SAGAR and SAGARMALA are a basis for exploring the possibilities for the country and allies in the region when mutually reinforced. These are the projects pioneered by India to strengthen the resilience of member nations against any possible disturbance in the Indo-Pacific region.
India aspired to achieve solid interconnection in the region through maritime connectivity and to attain and maintain a free-and-open Indo-Pacific for the sake of economic and strategic relations. India believed in an advanced regional approach to the region’s shift from the existing ‘Brown’ to a ‘Blue’ economy as a future economic model for the emerging power center. It is worth mentioning that in the present open world it is imperative to discover opportunities from the maritime impact of ‘Industry 4.0’ and to overcome the challenges of the domain. Although India has made it its mission to elevate interconnectedness amongst countries and to provide security in the Indian Ocean against terrorism and other threats to establish a trustworthy environment and a peaceful Indian Ocean, it faces a potential loss of influence because of China’s "string of pearls" policy and other pressures. However, India, with its strong peaceful policies of inclusiveness and nonviolence, is ready to gear up for this challenge.
India is looking to strengthen its foothold and multiply its operational range in the region, which is evident through the enhanced cooperation and partnerships between India and other Indo-Pacific nations under its multilateral and multi-sectoral foreign policy, which covers trade and investment, defense and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health. India emphasizes that its vision for the Indo-Pacific is of a free, open, and inclusive region incorporating all nations within this geography, as well as other stakeholders beyond it.
India tends to form new partnerships based on the broader perspective of common interests rather than on ideological constructs, as exemplified by its Act East Policy and its strategy in the Indo-Pacific at large. To this end, India has reintroduced its focus on an excellent relationship with ASEAN countries, which has been a major focus during the last few years. India has highlighted the centrality of ASEAN in its Indo-Pacific framework and India’s ‘Act East’ policy provides a framework for initiatives aimed at improving its cooperation with ASEAN members, Japan, BIMSTEC and other Eastern Nations. India has been trying to enhance its defense partnerships, environment protection cooperation and trade and investment with its ASEAN partners and BIMSTEC members as well.
India is looking to augment its own capabilities to extend its operational reach in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean through upgrading its Coastal Surveillance Network, which is a chain of radars that provide comprehensive live monitoring of ship movements in the Indian Ocean region and that connect Indian radars to similar systems in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, in order to shield the region with a strong defense mechanism.
In conclusion, India has always been interested in Indo-Pacific region through its peaceful measures and inclusive policies that strive to guarantee a safe, secure, terror-free zone. This is alongside an economic and strategic partnership in the region that is an urgent necessity for the comprehensive growth of the member nations as well as other stakeholders.