Indo-Pacific region’s changing dynamic to impact global economy, strategic ties

  • Experts discuss future at int’l conference 

Hyderabad The Indo-Pacific region will account for 60% of world’s GDP very soon, and this will have an impact on global power politics, stated distinguished economist Mohan Guruswamy, Chairperson, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

Speaking at an international conference on “Changing Security Dynamic in the Indo-Pacific” in Hyderabad on Friday, Guruswamy noted that the number of people in the productive age will keep growing, which may enable India to grow as long as there is political stability and policy environment. He said India should engage with East Asian countries to generate capital for its infrastructure projects. The conference was organised by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) at Dr Marri Channa Reddy Human Resource Development Institute, Hyderabad.

Vallabhu Srilatha, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Centre for Indian Ocean Studies, Osmania University, Hyderabad, noted that the Bay of Bengal can become a new locus of economic development in Asia. She highlighted the necessity of building bridges between South Asia and Southeast Asia, and remarked that the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has the potential to emerge as a major trade bloc in the region. However, she hastened to add that there is growing presence of the Chinese navy in the Bay of Bengal region. The conference witnessed in-depth discussions on maritime security issues, maritime terrorism and China.

Speaking on the theme, Lowell Bautista, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia, pointed out that the arbitral tribunal categorically declared that China’s nine-dash line claim finds no basis in international law and incompatible with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Referring to the new dynamics in the US-China relations, Richard A. Bitzinger, Senior Fellow, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, pointed out that the US approach of using technology superiority is being questioned because of the growing Chinese technological prowess.

The necessity of an inclusive regional framework received considerable attention from various scholars at the conference. Ronald Huisken, Senior Fellow, The Australian National University, referred to the challenges that confront the existing regional frameworks. For instance, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) emerged under the leadership of the smaller states and they did not possess skill-set for quick decision-making.

GVC Naidu, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, stressed that greater dialogue among great powers, creation of pan-Indo-Pacific multilateral frameworks, tangible cooperation to address non-conventional security challenges, building a stable regional balance of power, and intensified regional economic interactions will go a long way in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

In a similar vein, Hideki Asari, Minister (Political Affairs), Embassy of Japan in New Delhi, elucidated on the Japanese foreign policy initiative, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, and stressed that the two countries that should take the lead are Japan and India.

Prof. Tsutomu Kikuchi, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University Japan, highlighted that Japan has been strengthening economic  and security relations with “the rest of Asia”, as was shown in Japan’s active engagements with the countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia such as, India, Australia and ASEAN countries.

The necessity of collaboration among major democratic powers in Asia, such as India, Japan and Australia received considerable attention. Commodore RS Vasan, Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies, referred to the necessity of establishing a ‘Corpus Fund’ with partnership among India, Japan and Australia for promoting Blue Economy (ocean economies) in the Indian Ocean Region. The scholars also pointed out to the possibility of India-Japan collaboration to mine the precious polymetallic resources in the Indian Ocean.

Jayaprakash Narayan, General Secretary, Foundation for Democratic Reforms, observed that the new powers should not demonstrate callousness towards global norms, and, instead, should recognise that playing by rules will have a long-term benefit. He noted that India’s emergence as major power will be determined by greater democratisation, especially in the realms of increased access to education, development of robust infrastructure and empowered local governments that facilitate robust collective action at the grass roots. -NSS

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