Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: International Relations
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Tosh Minohara, Kobe University, Japan (organizer, chair)
Jiann-Fa Yan, Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan (discussant)
Mishra Rahul, University of Malaya, Malaysia (presenter)
Aleks Babovic, University of Osaka, Japan (presenter)
Sana Hashimi, Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University, Taiwan (presenter)
Jelena Glisic, Research Institute for Indo-Pacific Affairs, Japan (presenter)
Brian Walsh, Osaka City University, Japan (discussant)
The Indo-Pacific region faces three primary security threats. First, the economic, political and military expansionism by China. Second, the persistent North Korean nuclear threat. And third, the relative decline of American global influence and the departure from its traditional approach to alliance management to one that is more cost sensitive. Combined with rising pressure over the Sino-US trade dispute, these trends could have serious ramifications in the future of the Indo-Pacific region as the existing security architecture becomes further strained.
With this as a backdrop, panelists who are security specialists of US, Europe, India, China, Taiwan, and Japan will examine the possible future scenarios and highlight the pitfalls that may lie ahead, especially amid a more militarily robust and assertive China. Considering this, what is of critical importance is how we interpret the future of American influence in the region. Will there be a Guam Doctrine-esque move by President Trump which will greatly alter the geopolitical realties of the Indo-Pacific region. These are but a few of the key questions that this panel will address as we enter a new decade with much less clarity than the one that preceded it.
India and the Indo-Pacific Construct
Regions are artificial, social constructs that are made and remade depicting the fluid realities of politico-economic order. More often than not it is an outcome of the rise and fall of major powers. The emergence of the Indo-Pacific construct is yet another test case of this hypothesis. India, which was considered out of bounds for the Asia-Pacific region, is now almost at the epicenter of the Indo-Pacific. Leading proponents of the Indo-Pacific, including the US and Japan, have time and again reiterated this. Indo-Pacific has become an important component of Indian foreign policy discourse. Prime Minister Modi illustrated India’s Indo-Pacific policy in 2018. It was the first time India clearly listed out its priorities in the Indo-Pacific. Two of the most important features of India’s Indo-Pacific policy, as highlighted by Modi, are ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ and placing the ASEAN at the heart of its Indo-Pacific construct speeches by Indian leaders and official documents indicate that major attributes of India’s Indo-Pacific construct include “openness, freedom, inclusion, rules-based architecture and equality of all nations”. The promotion of Indo-Pacific portrays India as a responsible stakeholder and fulfils India’s aspiration to play a greater and leading role in the region. This paper argues that while strategic challenge posed by China is a major factor, willingness of major powers viz. the US and Japan, to include India at the regional high-table have also substantially contributed to the Indo-Pacific construct. On India’s part though it is a mix of normative and strategic calculations.
An Era of Anxiety for Japan as a "Military Power": Contradictions and Insecurities
The geopolitical reconfiguration in Asia-Pacific region that revolves around Sino-US rivalry that creates a dynamic web of incoherent institutional and conceptual security frameworks leads to an unstable security environment for Japan. The low level of trust in Trump administration’s commitment to Japan’s defense became an impetus for the Abe administration to urgently rethink and diversify its security infrastructure. This in turn added more complexity to the already existing debates about the meaning and future of Japan’s defense policy or, more bluntly put, its military power. In such security environment where Japan struggles to find its place and define its role, pondering the military component of its power — domestic legal and identity constraints, the security narrative, and signaling — becomes indispensable. The present paper aims at discussing contradictory narrative and ambiguities around the military organization in Japan which have been reflected into its foreign and security choices that go in direction of Japan fitting in, but not being feared. Japan’s colonial legacy and its postwar peaceful identity that have been acting as inhibitors to formulation of a bolder and more robust defense policy must be articulated within the present day international and regional order. Furthermore, Japan needs to improve the integration of its military component to the power parameters by consolidating domestic support and laying out a legal framework that would allow for an official recognition of the JSDF. Only then can Japan present a unified narrative regarding the role it will play as a regional power that better reflects the current security environment.
China’s Response to the Indo-Pacific amid the Wane of American Influence
China’s response to any United States-led regional mechanism has been that of caution and concern. Whether it was America’s support for the establishment of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the 1960s, creation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in the 1990s or the United States’ pivot to Asia/Rebalancing to Asia, China has consistently approached such initiatives as a strategy on part the United States to contain China. Its response to the Indo-Pacific is no exception to that. This is despite the fact that the Indo-Pacific is still a construct in making with difference of opinions among major stakeholders viz. United States, India, Japan, Australia, ASEAN on what the Indo-Pacific should be and what should it aim to achieve. China is mindful of the fact that the United States-led Indo-Pacific agenda may be able to tap in the concerns and apprehensions on part of countries’ of the region, and consequently, such countries to support the Indo-Pacific which, so far, does not include China as a responsible partner.While China’s response at the official level has been rather mutant, Chinese academicians and media have been vocal against the Indo-Pacific. With this in mind, this paper aims to analyse China’s understanding of the Indo-Pacific and emerging response to this construct.
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Indo-Pacific: Challenges & Opportunities
The key question that has emerged is what adequate strategy can address China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific, and more importantly, who will be the key to counter this expansion. While Japan’s cooperation to the BRI could bring tangible benefits to the Japanese economy, it also poses a significant political challenge for Japan. Engaging with the BRI would potentially spur the Japanese economy through greater overseas infrastructure investment. The Initiative may also provide Japanese companies with significant business opportunities. Additionally, BRI could complement Japan’s regional projects and strengthen regional integration in the Indo-Pacific. However, if the benefits are to be shared among all parties involved in the region, economic cooperation with China must be based on the principles of the existing liberal order. To do this, regional powers, foremost the Quad countries the US, Japan, Australia, India), must maintain their presence and, moreover, must present a united front which keeps the regional peace and security while continuing the trade in a beneficial manner. Japan has played a leading role in providing global public goods in Asia-Pacific for decades and is demonstrating leadership in consolidating the existing order based on universal values and principles of international law. This paper will attempt to identify challenges and opportunities in regards to the BRI in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, it will explore the possible strategies vis-a-vis the challenges, exploring Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) initiative as a potential framework to gather together stakeholders in the region to counter growing China’s influence
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