Tag Archives: Asia Pivot

Time for ‘Act East’ Policy

The Diplomatist, Vol. 2, No. 9, September 2014

M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Diplomatist Sept 2014 cover

Copyright: The Diplomatist

India’s engagement with ASEAN is flourishing to new heights today, owing to the changing geopolitics in the region, India’s maritime interest and its quest for securing access to natural resources and freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. India’s current vibrant Look East Policy (LEP) seeks to reinforce its ties with states in the Asia-Pacific, much beyond the intention of LEP that was initiated in 1991 by former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. After the end of the Cold War and the launch of economic reforms, New Delhi essentially aimed to reintegrate India, economically and culturally, with South East Asia (SEA). This led to a major strategic shift in India’s foreign policy objectives, as traditionally till then New Delhi looked westwards in spite of its long-established historical and cultural ties with the region. Gradually, increased trade and commerce between India and ASEAN, which later expanded to Japan, South Korea and Australia, contributed significantly to the expansion of defence and security ties. As a result, relations between India and the region have acquired new strategic and security characteristics in recent years.

The breadth and intensity of India’s engagement with South East Asia and East Asia today is considerably unparalleled by any of its other regional relationships. Several institutionalised annual summits, ministerial consultations and intensive engagement across governments and programmes between private sectors, academia, and media are cases in point. However, there are some pertinent questions with regard to India’s rising relations with the region such as: How does India perceive itself in the regional scene? What are India’s main strategic concerns? Is it ready to assume the role of security provider in the region?

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Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Authors: M. Mayilvaganan, Aditi Malhotra, Viswesh R., and Sadhavi Chauhan

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Executive Summary

seminar coverIn the emerging geopolitical discourse today, the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a major centre of geostrategic interest. Accompanying this change in perception is a change in scope, with strategists not just considering the typical Indian Ocean, but also the western, and sometimes even central Pacific Ocean. The Asia-Pacific ranges from East Africa to the western and central Pacific, including Japan and Australia. Asia-Pacific concept reflected a new reality shaped by the rise of China and India, a revitalized Japan, along with the continued primacy of the United States and also signifies the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean thus creating a single strategic system.

Based on the proceedings of the seminar, the following inferences on the behaviour and strategies of the major players in the Asia Pacific Region can be made.

China
  • China’s economic performance and its military modernization have made it a major power in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Though there is a great deal of economic inter-dependence between China and the US, there is great trust deficit that spills over into the strategic and military domains. This has created a new Cold War type situation between the two countries.
  • There was agreement among the participants that China is behaving in an increasingly assertive and aggressive way with its neighbours in the region. This assertive behaviour is particularly prominent in the East and South China seas. This behaviour was directed not only at US allies but also at other countries in the region.
  • China’s aggressive behaviour seems to have the full support of the Party and the PLA. The PLA remains under the firm control of the Party. Participants felt that this assertive behaviour would continue.
  • China’s relations with prominent US allies such as Japan and Philippines have become significantly worse following a string of maritime incidents. Other countries such as Vietnam have also been subject to Chinese harassment.
  • China’s behaviour towards the ASEAN group of countries also suggests that it thinks it has a dominant power position.
  • There seems to be a gap between Chinese local bullying behaviour and the overall strategy that seems to advocate a more reasoned rise.
  • Participants described this variously as “psychological flux”, “muscular leadership” and “no clear sense of direction”.

The seminar proceedings raised a number of questions related to the motives behind China’s behaviour. Some questions are as follows:

  • Is China’s increased belligerence based on the premise that US power is on the decline and that it can now match the US at least in the region?
  • With the presence of “US pivot” and the notion of “Air Sea Battle,” does China believes that it has in place a strategy to deter the US from intervening in the region? or
  • Is the increasing assertiveness based on the belief that the US wants to deter China from bullying its neighbours but will not move towards containing China?
  • By implication does this mean that China does not take the “US pivot” and the “Air Sea Battle” as a hindrance to or a constraint on its actions? or
  • Is the Chinese behaviour a consequence of a gap between the local and global strategies or between the tactical and the strategic? What are or what could be the reasons for this gap? Or
  • Is China’s assertiveness a part of a well thought out integrated approach towards the eventual re-establishment of China’s dominant position in the region?
  • Though some participants raised the question of a new world order with China and the US as dominant power centres, the issue did not emerge as a major point deserving serious consideration.
United States

According to the seminar participants the recent US pivot to Asia Pacific region could be interpreted in many ways.

  • It can be seen as a move away from a dominant or hegemonic position towards a rebalancing position.
  • It can also be seen as a US response to contain a rising China. Many participants mentioned that this was the position that the Chinese were taking in response to the “US pivot” and the concept of “Air Sea Battle”.
  • There seemed to be a broad acceptance amongst the participants that the US actions were not aimed at containing China but rather directed towards deterring China’s bullying tactics.
  • The view that the US sees India as an important ally in its rebalancing strategy also seemed to find acceptance.
  • When the sessions on China and the US are viewed together, the seminar proceedings seemed to suggest ambiguities in both Chinese and American perceptions regarding each other’s motives and intentions in the Asia Pacific area. These grey areas could sow the seeds for future conflicts in the region.
Russia
  • Russia would like to remain relevant as a major power centre in the region. The mature status of the European markets for oil and gas, and the growth prospects for them in the Asia Pacific region (especially in China) will force Russia to look eastwards rather than westwards. If China’s response is positive especially in terms of economic investment in Russia’s eastern regions, Russia may not have any problems in sharing power with China, as a part of the new political order in the region.
  • Developments in Ukraine and their consequences will also move Russia closer towards China to counter the moves from NATO and the western alliance. A Sino-Russian alliance of sorts could well happen soon.
  • Japan
  • The seminar proceedings suggest that Japan is seriously worried about the rise of China and its increasing aggressive behaviour towards it. It is also worried about China’s power and influence over a nuclear and missile capable North Korea that can be used to threaten and coerce Japan.
  • Japan has responded to these developments by strengthening its alliance with the US. As a part of this alliance it will once again allow US bases to operate out of Japan.
  • It is also improving its defence capabilities and if the constitution can be amended it is signalling the setting up of a self-defence force for the country.
  • By signing security pacts with Australia and India it has also indicated its intentions to form alliances with other like-minded countries to counter China’s aggressive behaviour.
ASEAN Countries

The ASEAN as a collective body is divided on how it should deal with China’s increasing assertiveness. Some fall clearly within the Chinese camp while others fall within the US camp and many others would like to remain neutral.

  • Most of the approaches adopted by them to build integrated security architecture with all the major players in the region such as the EAS have not delivered any great results so far.
  • As a consequence, countries are pursuing their own approaches when dealing with this situation.
  • Cambodia and Laos appear to be closely linked to China.
  • Indonesia, the largest country of the ASEAN is trying to remain neutral by providing space to China but also seems to be worried about Chinese actions in waters close to it. It is looking new ways and means in dealing with these problems.
  • Malaysia like Indonesia originally favoured a security architecture that recognized China’s major role but after the spate of maritime incidents, it has moved along with the Philippines towards a multilateral code of conduct approach with the involvement of countries like the US and Japan.
  • Singapore and Thailand are trying to work out arrangements which would favour the continuity of trade with China but also enable them to be linked to a security umbrella under the US.
  • South Korea appears to be moving closer to China both in terms of trade and also because it believes that China can control North Korea. However, in case a major conflict breaks out, it might still look to the US to guarantee security.
  • Given this large variation in interests, it appears unlikely that a grand alliance against China can materialize, even under US leadership. However new security arrangements between countries with similar interests that may include other major powers are already beginning to emerge. This may be the trend for the next few years.
India
  • India does not have a clearly articulated strategy for dealing with developments in the Asia Pacific region including the rise of China. The articulation of such a strategy that includes both hard and soft power components came out as the top Indian priority.
  • Though Indian and US interests are increasingly aligned against China in many ways, India should not become a formal part of the US rebalance strategy. India should also make sure that it has the capabilities to deal with any problems with China on its own without having to depend on other countries.
  • India should continue to actively engage with China in all areas while continuing to be watchful about Chinese actions and intentions.
  • India needs to be proactive in its approach to the region especially with regard to the maritime domain. It must exploit emerging opportunities to send strong signals to all players, that it will preserve and protect its strategic interests. The absence of a clear ‘Look East’ strategy is currently hampering such efforts.
  • In spite of the many problems within ASEAN, India should continue to engage actively and constructively with it.
  • Apart from strengthening bilateral ties with countries like Russia India also needs to look at trilateral agreements with the countries to strengthen its strategic position.

 

Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Text of the Public Lecture,  National Institute of Advanced Studies, January 3, 2014
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Excerpts from Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture

Ashley Tellis Lecture CoverThe subject that I am going to speak on today is very important for the future of both our countries: the United States and India. I am going to talk about the U.S. effort that is underway to rebalance to Asia. It is important because it goes to the issue of what kind of geo-political environment is going to exist in this part of the world in the years to come. If we do not quite get that context right, then obviously the choices that it will impose on all the states that inhabit this region will be far more difficult. Understanding what the United States is trying to do, I think, is a useful first step in trying to assess the future of the broad Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, I am going to focus my remarks on this subject: understanding the genesis, the phenomenology and the consequences of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

Rebalancing is really a strategic effort to go back to dealing with the fundamentals of the strategic situation. First, it is evidence of the American recognition that China’s rise is an enduring rise and not a flash in the pan. China is not suddenly going to disappear and take care of itself because of some internal crisis. It is the second element of rebalancing, the objective of managing China’s rise, which is going to be an extremely challenging one. Managing China is going to be a challenging task because it requires the United States to simultaneously socialise, integrate, deter and reassure China.

Rebalancing essentially involves three components. The strategic component is the one which has acquired a lot of attention in the public discourse. The other two equally important elements are the diplomatic and the economic components.

The idea, at the end of the day, is if all three components work as planned, the United States will begin to do much better than it did before in economic terms. That improved wealth and welfare performance will translate into greater availability of resources to the American state with respect to national defence. Those marginal increases in defence capabilities will in turn contribute to both defeating Chinese efforts to prevent the United States from being able to operate in Asia, while simultaneously reassuring American friends and allies. That, in a nutshell, is the logic of the strategy.

One also has to remember that this is a multi-player game. There is a U.S. relationship with China, there is a U.S. relationship with partners, and there is a relationship between partners and China. There is also a relationship among the partners themselves, and some partners do not happen to like one another.

For countries like India, Japan, Korea, and Australia, important nations that have proud histories and seek independent destinies, the success of U.S. rebalancing is vital. This is so because it is not yet clear to me that these countries have the capacity, either individually or in collaboration, to balance China independently of the United States. If that was the case, then the worst fears that the United States has with respect to Asia would be attenuated. Until the point where countries like Japan, India and Australia can muster the resources to assure themselves that they can successfully balance China, the best alternative for this part of the world is for U.S. rebalancing to be successful.

Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis on U.S. Rebalance to Asia

Dr. Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace visited the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore on January 3, 2014. He interacted with the ISSSP faculty and research staff.

Later in the evening he delivered a public lecture on the topic  Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia.

Abstract of the Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis

The Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia has received widespread attention globally. In Europe, the rebalance has evoked fears that the United States might be abandoning old allies in light of the need to cope with new challenges elsewhere. In Asia, the rebalance has evoked mixed reviews: in China, it is viewed as a subtle form of containment whereas in other parts of Asia, it has been welcomed more fulsomely, even when many capitals have doubts about its effectiveness. So what is the rebalance anyway? This presentation will focus on understanding the genesis of the rebalancing policy, its specific objectives and its multiple dimensions, and its requirements for success. It will assess whether the rebalance to Asia can in fact resolve the fundamental challenges facing the United States and its allies in the region.

The video of Dr. Tellis’s public lecture as well as pictures of his visit are available below

Video of Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture

 

Video of Discussion following Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture

 

Photos of Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis at NIAS

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Photos of Dr Ashley Tellis’s interactions with ISSSP members

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Examining India’s Look East Policy 3.0

International Policy Digest, November 21, 2013

M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

int policy digestThe changing geopolitical environment in Asia and in particular in the Indian Ocean region brings attention to the role of oceans in shaping a country’s strategic and security policy. The launch of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, on August 12, and later, a military satellite from French Guiana, on August 30, appears to form an integral part of India’s Asia-Pacific strategy or India’s Look East Policy (LEP) 3.0 Strategy. China views the Indian aircraft carrier and military satellite as a power projection by New Delhi in the region.The improved version of India’s LEP 3.0 strategy appears designed to help New Delhi maneuver into a favorable position in the Asia-Pacific, without being directly involving in any internal conflicts but at the same time meeting challenges that might arise in the region.

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