Feature Article

New Delhi wants western extremity of Indian Ocean equally ‘strengthened’

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 December 2019, 23:22 GMT]
New Delhi wants to expand the territorial scope of the geopolitical term ‘Indo-Pacific’ also to include the western Indian Ocean Region within its ambit. India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was talking about transferring lessons India had gained from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-led mechanisms into the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). In his concluding speech at the 11th Delhi Dialogue on Saturday, Jaishankar said: “In line with our own view that the Indo-Pacific naturally includes our western ocean neighbors in the Gulf, the Island nations of the Arabian Sea, and our partners in Africa, India’s approach to this concept led us to recognize that both geographical extremities of the Indo-Pacific and everything in between should ideally have their own indigenously evolved approach to the Indo-Pacific.”

“To our east, there are clearly no shortage of mechanisms. Primarily, though, the most successful and therefore the obvious choices for partnership, are essentially the ASEAN-led mechanisms, especially the East Asia Summit, but also consultative processes such as the ARF, ADMM+ and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF). As one of the speakers said at the Delhi Dialogue, there is already an alphabet-soup of mechanisms in this region,” the Indian Foreign Minister said in his valedictory address.

The IORA is a member organisation for countries bordering the Indian Ocean. However, three countries, Djibouti, Pakistan and Myanmar, have been kept out of it. While Djibouti does not seem to have applied for IORA membership, Pakistan’s repeated attempts to join the grouping have been systematically blocked by New Delhi. Membership issues seem to be decided by all member states in unison. Similarly, South Africa and Bangladesh have objected Myanmar joining the IORA in recent years.

The 22-member group has nine dialogue partners, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, the UK and the USA.

Twenty-two Member States and nine Dialogue Partners of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
Twenty-two Member States and nine Dialogue Partners of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

In the meantime, the Trump administration which abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in January 2017, has announced a new initiative in November 2019 labelling it as Blue Dot Network.

The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) have jointly launched the Blue Dot Network. The Network is an effort to counterbalance China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI) in the Indo-Pacific.

The Blue Dot Network is viewed as a standards-setting body bringing public, private sectors and the civil societies for advancing global infrastructure ‘development’.

India, the only remaining Quad partner, is yet to join the Blue Dot Network.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) between Australia, India, Japan and the United States [Image Courtesy: By Darouet - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64113559]

In November, India opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after seven years of negotiation of a free trade agreement.

Japan has been pushing for India’s participation in the largest trading bloc covering half of the world population as it feared China would dominate the RCEP without India’s involvement.

India and Japan held their first 2+2 ministerial dialogue on November 30, and the scheduled visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been postponed due to the recent unrest caused by the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in India.

India and USA are holding their second 2+2 ministerial dialogue meetings in Washington DC on Wednesday.

External Links:
ABC:  Print Email Facebook Twitter More What is the Blue Dot Network and is it really the West's response to China's Belt and Road project?
GoI:MEA: Valedictory Address by External Affairs Minister at 11th Delhi Dialogue



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