The Geo-strategic significance of Northeast Asia dates back to the cold war period and continues to be relevant even in the current context. The region houses several important powers like China, Japan, the Koreas and there is a strong presence of United States in the region.
Economically vibrant region, Northeast Asia continues to attract the interest and attention of great powers. Though India is traditionally not a part of the region, today it is gaining relevance and credence an an important strategic player. This opportunity seems to be extremely critical, as the regional powers like Japan and South Korea sees India as potential player who could possibly alter the dynamics of the region.
Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly unstable with unresolved disputes and shifting alignment in the face of China’s growing presence in the region. Though India-China relations is often seen in the light of cooperation and competition, the regional powers see India’s rise probably as a swing in balancing China or leading to a multipolar order.
How is India seen as a vital player in Northeast Asia:
India’s presence in the Northeast Asia is typically welcomed by South Korea, Japan and the United States. United States sees India’s presence as vital to the Northeast Asian security order. Unlike the past, US is today convinced of an expanded security role for India beyond the Indian Ocean Region. United States has made an ernest effort to conceptualise a strategic interconnection for India beyond the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific. A means to justify India’s role in Northeast Asia. Further United States has deliberately boosted politico-diplomatic engagement between India and the regional powers in Northeast Asia. India has been welcomed in the East Asian forums and institutions- probably a counter weight to China in the regionIn terms of security role, India has been involved in periodic naval exercises with the United states and Japan. The most recent has been the Exercise conducted in Northeast Asia. Most of India’s allies in the Northeast Asia are formal and informal partners with United States. This strategic entente has brought India into the foray of partnership with Japan and South Korea.
Japan remains key to Asia Pacific, and the recent interaction between India-Japan has strengthened the links further. The cold war politics drew India into an alignment different from that of most of the states of East Asia. and this created a sense of disjunct in terms of understanding each other. The most complex of the India-Japan relation was the incomprehensible meaning on the values and cultures that existed in both the countries.
However the perceived separation between the two countries are drawing to a close, the Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has called for a deeper, broader, action-oriented partnership with India. Both the Prime Ministers of Japan and India have unswervingly committed to a peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Both the Prime Minsters have committed to an extended bilateral cooperation in spheres of security, stability and sustainable development. Several areas have been identified in terms of cooperation-people-to-people, tourism, infrastructure collaboration,civil nuclear energy and educational collaboration. Crucial areas in terms of transfer of Defence Equipment and Agreement concerning security measures for the protection of classified military information further deepens the strategic ties between India and Japan. The participation of Japan in the India-US Malabar Exercise has further forged the long term commitment with Japan and to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
India-South Korea relations is gaining credence in the recent years. Ideological differences through the cold war deterred the relationship between India and South Korea. But the recent “New Asia Diplomatic initiative” by South Korea and India’s “look East Asia Policy” has further elevated the relationship between the two countries.
While India and Japan have expressed concerns over North Korea’s continuous development of Nuclear weapons and have urged North Korea to comply with the international regimes. India is seen as a constructive and viable partner in the security network in Northeast Asia. Is Japan, South Korea and Untied States subtly engaging India to contain China.
India at this juncture stands to benefit as this bilateral and multilateral engagement with North East Asia and United States is seen as a positive move towards India’s “Act East Asia Policy”.
Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar @Takshshila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.