In many ways India is not a traditional or a significant power in the Asia Pacific region, but today India is making a concerted effort to look eastwards. There is a divided opinion on India’s Pacific ambition, while some call it as an emerging aspiration, while others call it as a deficit action. However it would be a misnomer and premature to decipher India’s geo-strategic and geo-economic interest as simply void. With US strategic pivot in East Asia, and with expanded US-Japan alliance system, India is drawn into this power configuration partnership, probably an effort to counterweight China.
There is a growing geo-strategic and geo-economic involvement of India in the region. Host of factors ranging from past history, economy, political and strategic has dominated India’s East and South East Asia dynamics. Trying to connect the demands of the post liberalisation era and to engage meaningfully in the region, India re-visited its Look East Policy. India’s engagement with ASEAN is yet another milestone of integrating into the global economy.
The United States as a part of its pivot strategy in Asia , is harnessing India as an important player in the region. This has resulted in India’s invitation for the East Asia Summit in 2005. There is a sense of inclusion of India by Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea despite China’s objection. Defence diplomacy is something that India is judiciously following and has conducted joint naval exercises with South Korea. Thereafter there has been an greater political engagement with Seoul. There is a special strategic global partnership that is emerging between India and Japan,as both the countries remain very watchful of China.
There are several areas that India-Japan are networking together. The high speed railways between Ahmadabad and Mumbai is a very important initiative towards this effort. The cooperation on nuclear and defence between Japan and India is very significant imperative in Asia’s landscape. There is a crystallisation of trilateral partnership between India-Japan-United States. Maintaining Balance of Power is extremely vital and the resultant factor is the changing countours in the strategic landscape of East Asia.The triangular relation is seen as a crucial geo-strategic alternative which could probably balance China.
Is the inclusion of India done on the pretext of a growing economy or as an intent to contain China.There is lot of uncertainty that prevails in the region, what is the position of Japan, China and United States over the future of East Asia. Can the emerging powers like India, Japan and Australia fit into the strategic gap as a stabilising force in the region. There is an emerging power shift that is slowly unfolding , can India benefit from this strategic quadrangle is something that has to be carefully watched.
Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.