On North Korea, hope is not a strategy


July 11, 2017

On North Korea, hope is not a strategy

by Fareed Zakaria*

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Fareed Zakaria with POTUS Donald J. Trump

*Dr. Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. Before being named to his position at time in October 2010, Zakaria spent 10 years overseeing Newsweek’s editions abroad and eight years as the managing editor of Foreign Affairs. He is the author of “The Post-American World” (2009) and “The Future of Freedom” (2007). Born in India, Zakaria received a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He lives in New York City with his wife, son and two daughters.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/syndication/columnists/fareed-zakaria/?utm_term=.59f31eadcc52

In Washington, there is a conventional wisdom on North Korea that spans both parties and much of elite opinion. It goes roughly like this: North Korea is the world’s most bizarre country, run by a crackpot dictator with a strange haircut. He is unpredictable and irrational and cannot be negotiated with. Eventually this weird and cruel regime will collapse. Meanwhile, the only solution is more and more pressure. But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?

The North Korean regime has survived for almost seven decades, preserving not just its basic form of government but also its family dynasty, father to son to grandson. It has persisted through the fall of the Soviet Union and its communist satellites, the Orange Revolution, the Arab Spring and the demise of other Asian dictatorships, from South Korea to Taiwan to Indonesia.

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North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un defies Donald Trump and his allies and now threatens peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. His survival depends on the Military and the backing of China and Russia.–Din Merican

The Kim dynasty has been able to achieve striking success in its primary objective — survival. Of course, this is because it rules in a brutal and oppressive fashion, but so did many other regimes, from Romania to Syria to Myanmar. But somehow North Korea has maintained its system.

Kim Jong Un is a young man but has been highly effective at preserving his authority. He has secured the support of the military and sidelined or killed anyone who threatened his grip on power — including his uncle and, allegedly, his half-brother.

Look at the world from North Korea’s perspective. The regime saw the collapse of the Soviet empire and an even more unsettling transformation in China, which went from being a fiery ideological soul mate to a pragmatic trading state that has eagerly integrated into world markets. These days, Beijing seems to view Pyongyang as a nuisance, and China now often votes to condemn and sanction North Korea at the United Nations.

And the world’s most powerful country has made clear that North Korea is destined for the ash heap of history. After 9/11, when the U.S. was attacked by Islamist terrorists emanating from the Middle East, George W. Bush announced that the United States would no longer tolerate an “axis of evil” comprising Iraq, Iran — and North Korea. It invaded Iraq. Current U.S. policy toward Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said, is to “work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” And regarding North Korea, Donald Trump wants China to “end this nonsense once and for all,” which again can only mean getting rid of the Kim government in some way.

So, the North Korean regime has tried to buy insurance. And in the realm of international affairs, the best insurance is having a nuclear capacity. Pyongyang knows that it has a large-enough army and the Korean theater of war is so small and dense that a conventional war would be unthinkable, producing hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions of refugees pouring into China and South Korea. North Korea has accurately calculated that China and South Korea are more terrified of the chaos that would follow its collapse than of its nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps the right way to look at North Korea is as a smart, rational, calculating government that is functioning shrewdly given its priority of regime survival. More pressure only strengthens its resolve to buy even more insurance. How to handle it under these circumstances?

The first way to break the logjam in U.S. policy would be to convince China to put real pressure on its ally. That won’t happen by serving President Xi Jinping chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago. Beijing faces an understandable nightmare — under sanctions and pressure, North Korea collapses and the newly unified country becomes a giant version of South Korea, with a defense treaty with Washington, nearly 30,000 American troops and possibly dozens of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons — all on China’s border.

Washington will have to promise Beijing now that in the event of unification, it would withdraw its troops, change the nature of its treaty relationship with the new Korea and, working with China, eliminate Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

But pressure will work only if there is also some reason for North Korea to make concessions. Pyongyang has indicated in the past that it seeks a formal end to the Korean War (Washington signed only an armistice in 1953), a recognition of the regime, and the lifting of sanctions. Obviously none of this should be offered right now, but there is no harm in talking to Pyongyang and searching for ways to trade some of these concessions for the complete eradication of the nuclear program.

It’s a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, but the alternative is to hope that China will act against its interests and crush its ally, or that North Korea will finally collapse. But hope is not a strategy.

Fareed Zakaria’s email address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

India-China Relations: Give Diplomacy A Chance


July 10, 2017

India-China Relations: Give Diplomacy A Chance

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

http://thelinkpaper.ca/?p=63848

Tension between India and China is rising to a dangerous level and a military confrontation has become a real possibility. Such a conflict can prove catastrophic not only for this region but can also escalate to a Third World War. Unfortunately, Asia and the Indian Subcontinent can become an arena for the most dangerous and destructive Third World War. Before upping the ante we should also think of the most dangerous consequences which our actions can lead to. I feel that both sides are not taking this as seriously as they should. India and China are the largest countries of Asia and they have a moral responsibility to try to prevent Asia becoming arena for the Third World War.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to America and Israel and President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia show that the world is getting polarized and new alliances are emerging in the world. On one side America- Israel-India alliance and on the other side Russia-China –Germany alliance may emerge. The differences between America and Germany are growing and it has become a real possibility that Germany, the biggest economic power of Europe can switch sides like Turkey and join Russia to make Europe a rival of America rather than its biggest ally. If Europe switches sides then the emerging America-Israel-India can be perceived as an anti Russia anti China and anti Islamic alliance; Because Europe was always perceived as tilting toward the Palestinians (Muslims) and soft on Russia while America was seen as solidly backing Israel and vehemently anti Russia. If Europe leaves America then it will become very difficult for any Islamic country to be seen in the American camp and russia will see this alliance as anti Russia alliance.

Such a polarization of the world sets a stage for a quick escalation of India-China conflict to a Third World War. Unfortunately, Russia, the closest and the most time tested friend of India may be forced to take the opposite side. Similarly the perception of an alliance of America, Israel and India can force the Islamic countries to take the opposite side. We can already see that Iran which was at one time a close friend of India has now started to equate the situation in Kashmir to the situation in Palestine. It is not in India’s   interest to be perceived as a part of an anti Russia, anti China and anti Islamic alliance. I feel that China does not want to be dragged in a world war. Such a war will go against the policy of focusing on the economic development and developing China’s internal market. This has been the crux of China’s policy in the last three decades.

A military conflict is in nobody’s interest. Therefore, both sides should try everything to find a diplomatic and a political solution before resorting to a military confrontation. India should also try to get Russia involved in finding an amicable solution because Russia has good relations with India and China. India and China in spite of the differences have many common goals. Both the countries can only get the status they deserve in a multi-polar world rather than in the present western dominated unipolar world. Let us concentrate on our commonalities rather than our differences and give peace a chance.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Muddy Boots & Smart Suits –Researching Asia-Pacific Affairs


June 18, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Muddy Boots & Smart Suits —Researching Asia-Pacific Affairs

Nicholas Farrelly, Amy King, Michael Wesley, and Hugh White (eds) (ISEAS Publishing)

reviewed by Tom Pepinsky

http://www.newmandala.org

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Muddy Boots & Smart Suits is a sprawling volume, containing everything from a plea for the practice turn in international relations theory to an explanation of cross-validation in predictive quantitative modeling to reflections on internet access in rural Myanmar. It is also, paraphrasing the introductory chapter by Michael Wesley, an attempt at reflection on Asia-Pacific studies by researchers with current or past links to the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. Reading this volume as a big fan of (and occasional visitor to) the ANU, I had the sense that this volume reflects not just a larger conversation that has been happening for decades now between ‘area studies’ and ‘the disciplines’, but also something more special to the ANU.

The book succeeds in showcasing the breadth and diversity of scholarship on Asia and the Pacific within that community. Looking across the volume as a whole, some of the more useful contributions (to the mind of this reader) are those that touch on the policy process, and the ANU’s position as a national university serving Australia itself. There are also some interesting discussions of Australia’s position in the Asia-Pacific region, viewing the country as not just an outside observer but as itself a case.

Readers curious about particular topics or questions will also find much to learn in the individual chapters, which showcase scholars’ areas of expertise in an engaging and sometimes speculative manner. I suspect that this volume’s best use will be as a series of chapters, read individually by students and specialists who find the chapter topics engaging and wish to know more.

This leads me to my main criticism. Taken as a whole, the volume’s weakness is how disjointed the individual contributions are. This may have been inevitable given the volume’s charge, but there are missed opportunities for interesting and productive engagement across chapters that may have led to some more substantial conclusions. Here is one example: the chapter on strategic cultures by Peter J. Dean and Greg Raymond summarises various disagreements between first and third generation schools of strategic culture. Simplifying mightily, one axis in this debate is between whether behavior is just a dependent variable or is both a dependent and an independent variable.  It would have been revealing to put this into conversation with Paul Kenny’s chapter on design-based inference. If the first generation strategic culture theorists are right, what does this mean for a research strategy that requires a strict conceptual separation between causal variables and their effects? Is this tension irresolvable? If so, what’s next?

Another tension is between chapters that express a preference for microlevel details versus those interested in broad national trajectories. Evi Fitriani studies regional alignments in Asia with a conceptual focus on state-level processes. Nick Bisley’s chapter on power also operates at the state level. Contrast this with Cecelia Jacob’s preference for local-level studies of conflict and local-level understandings of international norms, each of which requires a focus on the individual or subnational community level. Should scholars following in Jacob’s tradition find Fitriani and Bisley’s analyses compelling, and vice versa? One argument—which I find overly simplistic—is that this is just a depth/breadth tradeoff. I suspect that the issues are more substantial, and would have enjoyed reading the authors grapple explicitly with them, in direct conversation with one another.

More narrowly, but importantly for the volume’s broader reach, I disagree with two characterisations of Asia Pacific studies in Wesley’s introductory chapter, which for better or for worse frames the entire volume. First, I take issue with the claim that Asia Pacific studies has been ‘remarkably non self-reflective’. It is impossible to list all of the volumes, workshops, seminars, and conference panels devoted to ‘rethinking’ or ‘reimagining’ or ‘refocusing’ the unwieldy body of intellectual inquiry captured under the term ‘Asian and Pacific Studies’, not just in Australia but in North America, Europe, and in Asia itself. There are at least four common themes that can be found throughout the subgenre of self-reflection: (1) the constructedness and artificiality of ‘Asia and the Pacific’; (2) discipline versus area studies; (3) positionality, hegemony, and Orientalism; (4) local versus global and sub-, cross-, trans-, and international studies.

The other disagreement I have is that ‘few methodological or conceptual debates have originated from within the study of Asian and Pacific societies’. The exceptions are just subaltern studies and the rise of great powers. How narrow a view of the contributions of Asianists this is! Just a glance at my bookshelf reveals so many additions. Margaret Mead on Samoa. Benedict Anderson on nationalism. Clifford Geertz on the Balinese cockfight. James Scott on the resistance and the state. Aihwa Ong and Michael Peletz on gender and identity. Chalmers Johnson on the developmental state in Japan. I could certainly go on—that list just reflects my idiosyncratic tastes and interests. These are major contributions by regional experts working on regional issues that have shaped entire disciplinary conversations, each with methodological implications that has occupied a generation of graduate seminars around the world.

The more general observation that emerges from this discussion has implications beyond Muddy Boots & Smart Suits as a volume. Research on Asia is important: the study of Asia and the Pacific has proven to be remarkably generative, providing major concepts and debates in the social sciences and humanities. Muddy Boots & Smart Suits reminds us of the value of self-reflection, and especially of the individual researchers, political incentives, and institutional support required to make these contributions.

Thomas Pepinsky is Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government, and a faculty member of its Southeast Asia Program.

Remembering India’s Diplomat and Historian. K.M. Panikkar


June 16, 2017

Remembering India’s Diplomat and Historian. K.M. Panikkar

By Sam Bateman

https://dinmerican.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/1fdd5-portraitofindianpoliticiank-m-pannikar-1946.jpg?w=506&h=659

Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (or K. M. Panikkar) (June 3, 1895[1] – December 10, 1963) was an Indian scholar, journalist, historian, administrator and diplomat.

Over 20 years ago, at a conference in Sydney hosted by the Australian Navy, then-Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Sabam Siagian referred to the ‘Vasco Da Gama Epoch’. That was a reference to an expression originally coined by the noted Indian historian and diplomat, K.M Panikkar, in his book Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco da Gama Epoch of Asian History. It described the period between the arrival of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in Southern India in 1498 and the post-World War II period. This was the period when Indonesia and most of Asia fell under European economic and political domination until the Japanese ended the aura of European colonial invincibility in World War II. The post-war period saw former British, Dutch, French and American colonies and territories in Asia gain their independence.

Sabam Siagian, who died last year, was Indonesia’s Ambassador in Canberra from 1991 until 1995. However, he’s mainly remembered as the first Editor-in-Chief of The Jakarta Post, the English-language paper he helped to set up in Indonesia. He was a good communicator in English and, possessing an affable personality, was popular in Australia. Being forthright and outspoken, he wasn’t afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ of conventional wisdom. That was evident in his reference to the Vasco da Gama Epoch. Well ahead of his time, he wanted his Australian naval audience to contemplate a world in which Western powers, particularly the United States, didn’t enjoy the same power and influence in Asia as they had previously. Panikkar and his Vasco da Gama Epoch continues to have implications for Australia and our relations with Asia, particularly Southeast Asia.

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K.M. Panikkar is highly revered by Indian strategic thinkers, but others also subscribe to his view of Asian history. Kishore Mahbubani, currently Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, echoes similar ideas in his book The New Asian Hemisphere: The irresistible shift of global power to the East, in which he argues that many Western strategic thinkers remain trapped in the past, with an inability to understand the new world, and that Western power and influence isn’t the same as it was before. Pankaj Mishra is another eminent Asian writer who has picked up on insidious aspects of the Western presence in Asia, primarily in his book From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia.

Resentment of centuries of Western dominance is a major part of the strategic psyche of both India and China. Strategic thinking in India remains influenced by Panikkar’s writings. India is intent on becoming a pre-eminent power across the wider Indo-Pacific region. However, memories of the deployment  of an American task force led by the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal at the height of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War still linger in India’s strategic consciousness. That deployment was viewed by India as an act of American ‘gunboat diplomacy’ that India couldn’t deter at the time. That experience became part of India’s strategic justification for acquiring nuclear attack submarines and bolstering its aircraft carrier capability. In that context, the current détente between India and the United States could be short-term opportunism for India. Its vision of the regional future might well follow Panikkar by seeing no significant long-term role for the United States in Asia.

Similarly, repeated incursions by Western imperialist powers in Chinese history have left an indelible mark on Chinese strategic thinking, leading to an emphasis on national sovereignty and fears of encirclement. It’s unfortunate that many American strategic thinkers continue to show a lack of appreciation of China’s history, especially Western imperialism, and the wide extent of anti-Western sentiment in China.

The Trump presidency in the United States, and uncertainty about its future policies in East Asia, is now serving to strengthen regional views that the Vasco da Gama Epoch is near an end—more quickly perhaps than had previously been anticipated. President Trump’s recent visit to Europe has led to views that he’s ‘weakening the West’ . Those views can only support regional perceptions of declining Western influence.

Those perceptions may be under-appreciated in terms of their impact on regional strategic thinking and assessments of the future of the region. Philippine President Duterte’s stepping back from his country’s links with the United States and moving closer to China add further to the notion of the impending end of the Vasco da Gama Epoch. Similarly, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and even ASEAN itself as Southeast Asia’s principal regional institution, are all showing that they’re adjusting their strategic thinking to recognise the rise of China and the decline of American power and influence.

What does that mean for Australia? The late Coral Bell, one of Australia’s most eminent international relations scholars, addressed the implications for Australia of the end of the Vasco da Gama Epoch in a 2007 paper, concluding optimistically that ‘The United States will remain the paramount power of the society of states, only in a multipolar world instead of a unipolar or bipolar one’. Unfortunately events of the past decade, including the Global Financial Crisis and the faster than anticipated rise of China, mean some re-assessment of that conclusion is required.

The time will come when the Vasco da Gama Epoch does end and the West enjoys little power and influence in the region. When that happens, Australia won’t be able to lift up our anchor and sail across the Pacific to anchor off the coast of California. Malcolm Turnbull also acknowledged that Australia was locked into the region when, in his address to the recent Shangri-la Dialogue, quoted one time Australian Foreign Minister Paul Hasluck as saying that ‘Others can go…But we can’t go home because this is our home’. In the short-term, it might suit us to maintain support for the United States in the region, but we must also be realistic about the future when the United Sates is much less paramount in the region.

 

Asian Development Bank at 50 and Japan’s puzzle


June 16, 2017

Asian Development Bank at 50 and Japan’s puzzle

by Dr. Titli Basu

http://www.asiaforum.org

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ADB President Takehiko Nakao

Competition for infrastructure financing is heating up in Asia. China is investing billions in mega-infrastructure projects under President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as designing new financing mechanisms beyond the Bretton Woods institutions. Against this backdrop, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) now faces the challenge of reforming itself and remaining competitive as it commemorates its 50th anniversary.

 

In the face of growing Chinese investment, Japan has stepped up its game through Prime Minister Abe’s Extended Partnership for Quality Infrastructure and by further augmenting the ADB’s role in catering to the infrastructure appetite of emerging economies.

As the ADB debates its ‘Strategy 2030’,which will be in place by 2018, it must facilitate institutional and organisational reforms necessary to maintain its relevance. As Obama administration’s and Japan’s attempts to steer the initial debate on the AIIB failed to stop US allies from joining the China-led bank,the need to reform existing Bretton Woods institutions, including the ADB, has intensified.

The ADB remains under the control of Asia’s traditional regional actors including Japan and the United States with 15.6 percent shareholding each in 2016. There is a need to revisit this approach and create more space for emerging economies in the bank’s governance structure. China, India and Indonesia have 6.4 percent, 6.3 percent and 5.4 percent of shareholdings respectively in 2016. As the US-led international economic order has failed to reflect the shifting alignments, the ADB must grow in order to respond to the varying needs and ambitions of its developing member countries.

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While international attention was focused on Beijing’s recent Belt and Road Forum (BRF) on 14–15 May, a week earlier Japan celebrated the ADB’s 50th anniversary in Yokohama. Since infrastructure financing often translates into expanding geo-political influence, Japan has committed US$40 million over a two year period to a high-technology fund to support the application of innovative solutions throughout the project cycle of ADB-financed and administered sovereign and non-sovereign projects.The fund will be effective by July and will focus on critical areas including climate change, smart grids and renewable energy.

Two years ago, weighing the impact of the AIIB, Abe designed the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure and argued that Japan in cooperation with the ADB will provide ‘high-quality and innovative’ infrastructure and pledged US$110 billion over five years — a 30 percent increase from earlier funding. At the Yokohama meeting, Japan called for promoting infrastructure projects to be the mainstay of ADB operations and to further muster private sector financing together with public-private partnerships.

In February 2017, the ADB estimated that Asia will need US$26 trillion for infrastructure from 2016–2030.Economic rationale dictates that the ADB has enough space to operate alongside new development banks while addressing the infrastructure financing gap. ADB has adjusted with new realities and opened up to co-financing with the AIIB. The two banks signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation including co-financing in May 2016. They are co-financing the National Motorway M-4 Project in Pakistan, each financing 36.6 percent individually of the total project cost of US$273 million. ADB has approved co-financing with AIIB in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

In the run up to the BRF, ADB President Takehiko Nakao argued the merits of cooperating with the BRI design. While Japan’s national leadership refrained from attending the summit, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary general, Toshihiro Nikai and the Keidanren chief, Sadayuki Sakakibara were both present. This decision has been shaped by larger geo-political and geo-strategic variables. President Trump’s evolving Asia policy, fluidity in US–China relations and the North Korea conundrum are making Japan weigh up its options carefully.

AIIB membership has expanded since its inception. Japan has learnt it the hard way during the initial AIIB membership debate about the demerits of non-engagement and losing the opportunity to shape decisions from within. The United States and Japan are the only two G7 countries that kept out of the AIIB. At a time when BRF witnessed representation from over hundred nations and domestic debate over the AIIB is intensifying in Japan, Tokyo needs to revisit its stance on the China-led bank on one hand and drive the debate to facilitate pertinent reforms in ADB on the other.

For 50 years, the ADB has worked towards inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and regional integration. It’s lending focuses on infrastructure, education, environment, health, financial sector and so on. In 2016, the bank approved US$17.5 billion in financing, disbursed US$12.5 billion and attracted US$13.9 billion in co-financing. While it has fuelled Asia’s growth, garnering resources for infrastructure, poverty mitigation and supporting financial inclusion will remain ADB’s priorities.

Developing its lending capacity, the bank has merged the Asian Development Fund with the Ordinary Capital Resources. Moving ahead, ADB has agreed on a new procurement design and is firming up on delivering knowledge solutions and facilitating innovation and integration of high-level technology in projects.

The call for re-evaluating ADB’s voting rights is not new. Critics argue that present international institutions should permit space to developing nations and that failure to do so will hurt the relevance of these institutions.The emerging economies have long argued for representative governance, rationalising operations, easing the ADB’s internal processing time and encouraging public-private partnership investments. Japan must take the lead to facilitate governance reforms against the backdrop of AIIB and other new multilateral development banks. Failure to implement internal reforms will impact the ADB’s influence.

Developing Asian nations will be the beneficiaries of this race for infrastructure financing. Productive competition will diversify emerging economies’ options to choose the most favourable financing terms. Long-term, this will support the larger purpose of empowering emerging Asian economies to augment national growth and enhance Asia’s ability to compete in the global economy.

Titli Basu is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.

India, Japan, and the Indo-Pacific: Breaking Out of the Middle Power Status


June 16, 2017

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Number 384 | June 15, 2017

ANALYSIS

 

India, Japan, and the Indo-Pacific: Breaking Out of the Middle Power Status

By Nidhi Prasad

A day after China launched its second aircraft carrier, the American administration under Mr. Donald J. Trump appeared jubilant about celebrating the first 100 days of its “America first” policy. Asian nations have to grapple with an uncertain security environment which lacks the structure or predictability that existed during the Cold War. They are caught between an aggressive China – their largest trading partner and their security ally or partner – and an increasingly capricious United States. Should one kowtow and shape Asia’s “common destiny” or negotiate a deal to “make America great again”? This article explains three ways in which India and Japan refuse to be caught in binary choices and are gradually creating room within which other Asian countries can  maneuver.

First, India and Japan under Prime Ministers Modi and Abe respectively, have attempted to change the geopolitical imagination of their nations. By 2014 China had announced its plans to link the Eurasian landmass and Pacific Rimland (through ports, pipelines, etc) by reviving the maritime and continental ‘Silk Road’. In 2015 India and Japan signed a joint statement to mutually work towards building peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region within a decade. This was the first time the two nations agreed to expand the geographic scope of their strategic partnership (almost a decade after Abe first proposed it in India). Until 2014 the two nations looked for convergence in their foreign policies (‘Act East’, ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Quality Infrastructure Initiative’, etc…). The United States under the Obama Administration additionally engaged in ‘burden sharing’ and institution building, as well as recognizing Indian and Japanese intentions to break out of their middle power status. It promoted India’s ‘leading power’ ambitions and supported the unprecedented changes in Japanese security legislation to make it more ‘proactive’.

Secondly, India and Japan are making attempts to transform the security order rather than being either status-quo nations or revisionist actors. The United States expects its Asian partners to balance against Chinese aggression while China’s biggest concern is a joint coalition that would resuscitate the ‘cold war mentality’ of containment. China has increasingly used its geo-economic tools punitively to target trade, tourism, and other sectors against any diplomatic disobedience. This was glaringly visible when South Korea decided to go ahead with setting up the THAAD missile defense system against Chinese wishes. Recently Beijing standardized the names of Arunchal Pradesh localities with Chinese character in retaliation against the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Indian state (which Beijing claims is part of “South Tibet”). Meanwhile, Japan has deployed its helicopter carrier Izumo to a tour through the South China Sea (where China and ASEAN countries have disputed territories). Additionally, Izumo will participate in the Indo-US-Japan Malabar exercise in the Indian Ocean in July this year. Such “resistance” by India and Japan is a sign that both nations are unwilling to be dictated to by China.

India and Japan are keen to play active roles and engage in close cooperation with all actors in their respective restive neighborhoods on issues for which China exercises influence such as the North Korean nuclear crisis or negotiations on Afghanistan. The complexity of relations further illustrates that states in this region cannot adopt simple strategies of balancing, band-wagoning, or hedging; rather, India and Japan need to present alternatives to others that are unable to afford to maneuver in the present system.

Third, India and Japan are moving beyond middle power narratives as they seek to support smaller Asian nations and provide alternatives to China’s “win-win” diplomacy that has placed nations like Sri Lanka and Cambodia in a Chinese debt-trap. In 2016 India and Japan articulated a joint “Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy” towards achieving this goal, but have not yet spelled out any specifics. The two countries can assist with the need to fill the estimated $1.3 trillion estimated infrastructure gap in the region. China, under the pretense of connectivity and trade, is attempting to “hard-wire” geopolitical realities and Chinese influence, brush territorial disputes and disagreements under the carpet and carry out business as usual. Neither India, Japan, nor the United States were among the 28 countries that sent heads of government to China’s maiden Belt and Road Forum. Before the forum develops into an overarching platform to discuss Indo-Pacific security issues, India and Japan need to quicken the pace of infrastructure cooperation.

In order to succeed Japan and India must compete with China’s ability to mobilize resources at a fast pace and engage in robust diplomacy without threatening smaller nations or appearing interventionist. India is seeking Japan’s help to regain lost geopolitical capital in its neighborhood. Ultimately, India and Japan need to help realize the aspirations of smaller nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Pacific Island countries, and others who need economic and security assistance.

Finally, the role of the United States to project power and influence is also of great significance to Indian and Japanese strategy. Recent talks of the creation of an Asia Pacific Stability Initiative (with a fund of approximately $7.5 billion) and other diplomatic overtures hold the potential to stem the direction of the current power transition in the region. Asian nations now have to deal with an America that expects allies to do most of the heavy-lifting, and security guarantees in the future will be conditional on free and fair trade. Unlike before, it is the United States (in order to retain its dominance) that has to strengthen credibility in dealing with a new geo-strategic landscape, where intra-Asian trade is high and China is no longer shy about its hegemonic aspirations. Ultimately the United States would have to pressure China and maintain the security and stability of the region. To preclude China’s hegemony or Sino-US rapprochement, India and Japan are breaking out of their traditional roles and are willing to shoulder the responsibility of securing the Indo-Pacific region.

About the Author

Nidhi Prasad is a Researcher in the Department of International Politics at Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan. She completed her Master of Philosophy in Japanese Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. She can be reached at Nidhi29Prasad@gmail.com.

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