From historical perspective to the contemporary, it is evident that that traditional and non-traditional security challenges converge at sea as they impact politico-economic, environment, energy, food and national security. The center of gravity of global politics has largely shifted from Europe to Middle East, Asia and now Asia Pacific. As the region is witnessing the rise of two of the very old and thickly populated civilization, India and China, this had changed the posture of United States towards the region.
The Asia-Pacific region is now the stage where powers are jockeying for influence and to hold strategic grounds. This put us at the helm of affairs that the region endangers world’s peace and stability or will it be the ground for bilateral and multilateral peaceful coexistence between countries. The essence of the region is that it has evolved policies of all the powers of the world. India and the U.S both have found modus Vivendi towards the region while collaborating on the maritime security of the region.
The U.S Department of Defense formulated maritime capacity building initiative in 2016. Maritime security initiative was allotted $50 million. Washington has actively been working with Southeast Asia states where it helps to improve their ability and develop their capabilities to detect, understand and react to any maritime threats. MSI is the expansion of Maritime Domain awareness, the initiative has been well designed to provide infrastructure for maritime response operations, to strengthen maritime engagements in Asia Pacific region.
The Asia Pacific region holds importance for economic, political and military circles. The U.S since time immemorial has a special interest in the region. In 2006, Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), it was intended upon increasing number of naval ships in Asia Pacific region and U.S to deploy sixty percent of its submarine forces to the region. Few of the major objectives are to strengthen military capacity, ensure that the U.S can thwart conflict, coercion and respond with higher efficacy.
Department of Defense (DOD) put forth three major objectives. Firstly, the U.S to safeguard freedom of seas where its navy finds it mandatory to be well prepared to protect any civil fleet passing the shores and make sure that its freedom to navigate is not threatened or put in danger. The freedom of seas includes all the rights of seas, lawful use of free air and sea space, this also includes military ships and aircraft. Secondly, deter any conflict or coercion in the region. For more than 70 years U.S has been playing a vital role in maintaining regional peace and stability of the region.
The region has witnessed prosperity and economic growth. So the U.S has always and will maintain its military presence in the region to preserve peace and protect interests of the states. Lastly, promote and ensure international law. The international law provides shared use of the resources, waterways, channels and ensures safety in its domain. The U.S interests in the reason are also bounded by the morals of international law whereas a superpower it herself adhere and ensure other states adapt by the international laws as well.
On the other hand, Admiral Joseph W Preueher, Commander in Chief U.S Pacific command opined about India that with her vast economic, military and strengthened political potentials, the U.S must seek to include India and offer her the seat at the table of Asia Pacific. Keeping in the view the increasing economic interests of India, which is now third largest economy after the United States and Japan have re-arranged and re-evaluated her maritime security strategy so to protect her vital interests in the region. India has now directed its economic and military policy towards the east with starting economic cooperation. India now is one of the major players in the region and important in regional Balance of Power of Asia Pacific with other major powers like U.S, China and Japan. The introduction of India into the maritime of the region can really shape the geopolitics of the region.
There are three dimensions to India’s interest in Asia Pacific region. One, enhance capability and role of the navy. It is included in India’s new maritime doctrine in 2004 to enhance its naval capabilities to which the Indian Naval forces must be expanded for the country’s rising economic and strategic interests. Second, to have bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the region. The regional countries also recognize the growing significant role of India. India started off with economic cooperation with Southeast Asia countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Like the U.S, India from decades had maintained cordial relations with ASEAN states and have exchanged economic interests and enhanced soft power projection strategy in the region with her old culture and tourism. Third, with the rise of multi-polar world and rise of China is one of the important dimensions in India’s interest in the region.
There is a continuous assertiveness of China from India’s perspective. In response to which India could want multi-polar order in Asia Pacific region as there should be no hegemonic designs by any country. India’s joint exercises with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia in the Indian Ocean and later with Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines is evident that India is flexing her muscles to have strong footprints in the region. Nevertheless, these countries also look towards India, Asian power to help them against China’s regional influence.
Due to its rapid increase in economic, military and political spheres at international level, China is considered as a real threat for both United States and India. The United States is apprehensive about China’s assertiveness in the region, which is why tilting and offering India for the special role is seen a balance of power in the region to contain China’s regional aspirations and status. For China, it has been an offensive gesture by both U.S and little from India. This means that China is not a “status quo” power in the region but would try to alter Asia Pacific’s balance of power in its own favor. Consequently, it makes China a “strategic-competitor” for U.S hegemonic designs and for India if she wants to create a multi-polar architecture in the region.
From multipolar world to bipolar and again the rise of the multi-polar world can be considered as an opportunity as well as grace challenge to the existing international environment. Asia Pacific region is considered a hotbed for major powers, each of the powers has been meddling in their re-adjustments. Balancing and counter-balancing each other’s influence. Maritime Security strategy adopted by major powers against each other in the region is alarming and may have ignited new brinkmanship. More constructivist approach if opted can be utilized where all the states would take full advantage of the resource-rich region and not be at daggers drawn toward each other.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Syed Taimoor Shah recently done his Mphil in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. Currently attached as an Intern with Institute of Strategic Studies, Research, and Analysis (ISSRA). His area of interest is included Asia Pacific and Refugee Management.