Indo-Pacific : News & Discussion


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

India to host Indian Ocean Region defence ministers' conclave next month​

India will host the defence ministers of the countries of the Indian Ocean Region at a conclave during the upcoming Aero India in Bengaluru, officials said on Friday.

India is organising the conclave in the backdrop of growing Chinese military assertiveness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

"Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is hosting the IOR defence ministers' conclave on February 4. It will be held during the Aero India 2021," said an official.

The conclave is being organised as part of an initiative to promote dialogue in an institutional and cooperative environment that can foster peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region, the official said.

"The broad theme of the conclave will be 'Enhanced Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Indian Ocean'. The conclave would address aspects related to synergising the resources and efforts in the Indian Ocean," the official said.

"The IOR conclave is an effort towards India's commitment and continued engagement in the Indian Ocean both for defence diplomacy as also for economic prosperity through sustained engagement, dialogue, experience
sharing and exchange of best practices," he said.

The conclave is also taking place at a time Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a bitter standoff in eastern Ladakh for the last eight months.

In sync with the national security doctrine, the Indian Navy has significantly increased its deployment of warships, submarines and other assets in the Indian Ocean Region, in an attempt to send across a message to China.

The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India's strategic interests. China has been making concerted efforts to increase its presence in the region.

The next edition of Aero India, considered Asia's largest aerospace exhibition, will be held in its traditional venue of Bengaluru from February 3-5.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

PRC Military Pressure Against Taiwan Threatens Regional Peace and Stability​

The United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing PRC attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.

We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region — and that includes deepening our ties with democratic Taiwan. The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan.

The United States maintains its longstanding commitments as outlined in the Three Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Six Assurances. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative: Towards a Coherent Indo-Pacific Policy for India​


The Indo-Pacific region is a vast maritime zone where the interests of many players are engaged: India, Japan, France, and the United States, as well as medium and smaller powers like Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa; there are stakeholders from beyond the region, too.[1] In recent years, uncertainty has heightened in the region owing to China’s territorial expansionist agenda, concerns for the United States’ long-term commitment to Asia, as well as the limitations of existing multilateral institutions. Indeed, the Indo-Pacific is emerging as the new and expanded theatre of great-power contestation.

India has been championing the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) idea, initiating forums like the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). It engages with its Indo-Pacific partners either bilaterally, or on plurilateral and multilateral platforms, in a multitude of spheres including maritime security, Blue Economy, maritime connectivity, disaster management, and capacity building. However, India continues to lack a coherent Indo-Pacific strategy.

In April 2019, India set up an Indo-Pacific wing in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The division is meant to integrate under one Indo-Pacific umbrella, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, and the Quadrilateral of the US, Japan, Australia, and India.[2] An Oceania division was created in the MEA in September 2020 to bring India’s administrative and diplomatic focus on the region stretching from western Pacific (with the Pacific islands) to the Andaman Sea. This is the maritime space where China is trying to maintain its dominance and India is seeking to assert its own relevance.[3]

To promote its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean, India launched the SAGAR vision in 2015. On 4 November 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the IPOI at the East Asia Summit in Bangkok. The main objective of the IPOI is to ensure the safety, security, and stability of the maritime domain,[4] and to do that, seven pillars have been laid out.[a] So far, however, little is known about what is to be expected out of the IPOI: Will new programmes be planned under the initiative, or is it simply an extension of India’s SAGAR vision?

This paper outlines specific recommendations for India to utilise the IPOI in playing a more proactive and constructive role in the Indo-Pacific. The authors have chosen to examine the IPOI as it is the most recent initiative introduced by PM Modi in the region. Moreover, given new developments—such as India extending an invitation to Vietnam to partner in this initiative—[5] IPOI appears to be India’s way of developing a mechanism for cooperating with like-minded countries to pursue a ‘free, open, inclusive and rules-based’ Indo-Pacific. IPOI is being built on the pillars of India’s ‘Act East’ policy (focusing on the Eastern Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific) and ‘Act West’ (focusing on the Western Indian Ocean).

Setting the Context

Against a volatile and fast-changing regional and global geopolitical landscape, the seas are becoming a crucial arena for most, if not all tensions. Non-traditional security threats—including natural disasters, human trafficking, illegal fishing, and maritime terrorism—compound the risks to regional maritime security and stability.[6] To begin with, one-third of the world’s trade and significant volumes of East Asia’s oil pass through the Eastern straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok-Makassar and the South China Sea (SCS). This necessitates security and stability, especially in the East Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific.

The Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOR), sitting at the intersection of Asia, Africa, and Europe, is gaining greater strategic importance. The region’s rich natural resource profile, estimated to be worth at least US$333.8 billion, has generated interest amongst the bigger world economies.[7] For India, the region is part of its strategic maritime frontier which extends from the Persian Gulf, to the East coast of Africa, and across the Malacca Strait. Significant traffic of container shipping transits the region and is home to some of the most vital and strategic maritime chokepoints such as Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, Mozambique Channel, Strait of Hormuz, and Cape of Good Hope. Running parallel to India’s increasing outreach to African countries under PM Modi, and the Navy’s role as a regional security partner, India has rightly identified the Western Indian Ocean as a region of primary interest.

India views the Indo-Pacific as a geographic and strategic expanse, with the ASEAN connecting the two great oceans—and at the heart of this conception lie the principles of inclusiveness, openness, ASEAN centrality, and unity. Security in the region must be maintained through dialogue, a common rules-based order, freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. Sustainable connectivity initiatives that promote mutual benefit should be continually fostered.[8]

From the beginning, India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific has focused on the region stretching eastwards from the country, with ASEAN as the focus. New Delhi is broadening the regional canvas covered in its Indo-Pacific policy to include the Western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.[9] Delivering the valedictory address at the joint Indian Ocean Dialogue and the Delhi Dialogue in December 2019, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said: “India is increasing the area covered by its Indo-Pacific policy to include the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea – this includes the neighbours in the Gulf, the island nations of the Arabian Sea and Africa. Stretching the geographical and therefore strategic area of the Indo-Pacific to encompass not merely a region stretching eastwards from India, which would have the ASEAN as the central focus, India is now incorporating the western Indian Ocean and Africa. There is room for a Western Indian Ocean version of this concept too.”[10]

With India recognising “both geographical extremities” of the Indo-Pacific spectrum, it is time to give equal weightage and consideration to the two sets of distinctive policies—the ‘Act East’ and the ‘Act West’—as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

Geostrategic Issues

This section explores the vision behind India’s IPOI initiative, outlines the responses of countries that have expressed interest to work with India under IPOI, and highlights the ways in which these countries are responding to China’s unilateral and belligerent behaviour in the Indo-Pacific. It will underscore the importance of the Quadrilateral initiative within the IPOI construct.

India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative: The Vision

The IPOI is an open global initiative that draws on existing regional cooperation architecture and mechanisms. India has reached out to several countries to fast-track the IPOI; the MEA has forwarded a comprehensive note to Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam for their comments.[11] At the 17th Meeting of the India-Vietnam Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation[c] held on August 2020, India and Vietnam agreed to enhance their bilateral cooperation in line with India’s IPOI and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region. India invited Vietnam to collaborate on one of the seven pillars of the IPOI. This is significant against the backdrop of Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular in its disputes in the South China Sea.[12] Even in the 15th East Asia Summit conducted in November 2020, EAM Jaishankar referred to the “synergy” between the ASEAN Outlook and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.[13]

The idea is that one or two countries could take the lead for a pillar, and other interested countries could join. This would make it a cooperative venture and accord it transparency and inclusivity. India, for its part, is prepared to take the lead in maritime security and disaster risk management. This was supposed to tie in with the 4th Maritime Security Workshop scheduled for February 2020 under the rubric of the East Asia Summit which India would have co-hosted with Australia and Indonesia.[d] PM Modi’s initiative also plans to build on the 2017 ASEAN Regional Forum statement against “Illegal, Unreported and Unlicensed Fishing”. India is prepared to host an event on this larger security issue since it concerns livelihood security and food security.[14]

Indeed, oceans are shared spaces where international cooperation is a prerequisite for security. For India, building partnerships will be vital to assist governments to ensure aligned and mutually supportive actions across all SDGs and unlock the productive potential of marine assets. A purposive partnership with like-minded countries is at the core of the IPOI.[15]

Response of partner countries

Countries like Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have expressed their willingness to cooperate with India on the IPOI. In the past, ASEAN countries have entered into cooperative frameworks that they have found to be focusing on specific issues or tasks. To be sure, ASEAN has also been party to such arrangements as the Five Power Defence Arrangement by the founding members of ASEAN—Malaysia and Singapore—with the UK, Australia, and New Zealand in 1971.[e] Other joint initiatives are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Key Initiatives by ASEAN Countries

CountriesJoint Initiatives
Malaysia, Singapore, and IndonesiaMALSINDO – for maritime patrolling of the Strait of Malacca to curb piracy
Singapore, Thailand, and MalaysiaEye in the Sky Initiative
Indonesia, Malaysia, PhilippinesTrilateral Maritime Patrol (INDOMALPHI)
Timor-Leste, Indonesia, JapanTimor-Leste-Indonesia-Japan Triangular Cooperation Project
Indonesia, Malaysia, PhilippinesIndonesia-Malaysia-Philippines Trilateral Patrol in the Sulu Sea
ROK, Turkey, AustraliaRepublic of Korea, Turkey, and Australia (MITKA)[f]
Australia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Timor LesteSouth West Pacific Dialogue

Source: Authors’ own, using various sources

India is now looking to engage in “issue-based” alignments.[g] With its seven pillars outlined, the IPOI is indeed “task-oriented” as well. Indonesia, particularly, is dissatisfied with the ASEAN way of working and is searching for its role in any alternative regional grouping.[h]

Moreover, the ASEAN countries are also recalibrating their policy priorities especially within the Indo-Pacific rubric. The adoption of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific is an iteration of how a currently divided organisation like the ASEAN also wants to be part of the Indo-Pacific discourse. The Outlook lays out the core areas where ASEAN is looking to collaborate with other players of the region, among them: maritime cooperation, connectivity, and UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.[16] These are in line with the seven pillars of the IPOI.

Engagement with African littorals in the Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) will be vital to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains open and free for inclusive partnerships, within the parameters of sovereignty, equality, and a rules-based system. African littorals in the region can contribute to the Indo-Pacific discourse by offering a sub-regional view and definition of maritime security challenges, and championing local ownership of pathways towards workable solutions and achieving the SDGs.[17] India and other regional powers can build partnerships with WIOR littorals to build an inclusive maritime security architecture and steer the region into more organised waters.

The China Challenge

At a time when the world is grappling with the manifold impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has been aggressively pursuing its sovereignty claims. It is working to establish itself as a major regional player by employing initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as by adopting assertive security policies towards its neighbours.[18] Since May 2020, Chinese and Indian troops have been involved in a confrontation along the disputed Himalayan border. China’s ambitious military plans and its border skirmishes with New Delhi have forced India to recalibrate its China policy and envision a greater role for itself in the Indo-Pacific region.[19]

Most countries of the Indo-Pacific region have been at the receiving end of China’s encroachment and expansionist policies. Australia has accused China “of building an influence in the Pacific by currying favour with the region’s smaller nations like Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu and funnelling cash into their infrastructure projects.”[20] In March 2020, a Chinese fishing boat — possibly belonging to the paramilitary maritime militia — collided with, and damaged, a Japanese destroyer in the East China Sea. In April 2020, Beijing declared new administrative districts in the Paracel and Spratly islands, the latest step in its bid to legitimise effective control over these areas. The same month, a Chinese coast guard ship sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea. In the South China Sea, large-scale land reclamation and militarisation activities have been taking place, which in turn have raised tensions in the region. For several days in August this year, the Pentagon reported that “China has escalated its previously announced exercise activities in the South China Sea by launching four medium-range missiles impacting the stretch between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands.”[21]

India has always emphasised the need to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the SCS. It has taken a more vocal stand recently, declaring the SCS as a “global commons”[22] wherein all disputes should be settled in accordance with international law. In the East Asia Summit in November 2020, EAM Dr. Jaishankar stated, “the Code of Conduct negotiations should not be prejudicial to legitimate interests of third parties and should be fully consistent with UNCLOS”.[23] The Indian Navy has reportedly deployed one of its frontline warships in the South China Sea, after the June 15 clash with Chinese PLA troops in the Galwan Valley.[24] The Navy also deployed its frontline vessels along the Malacca Straits near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the route from where the Chinese Navy enters the Indian Ocean Region to keep a check on any Chinese naval activity. The Navy also held exercises in the Andamans and has deployed MiG-29K fighters in the islands. [25] Of late, India has viewed the Western Pacific as falling within the ambit of its maritime security interests. The focus on maritime issues is evident from the increase in maritime exchanges led by the Indian Navy, with countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan.

There has also been a steady increase of Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean, raising security concerns for India. According to Indian Naval Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, “There are four to six Chinese research vessels operating in the IOR beyond India’s EEZ in addition to over 600 Chinese fishing vessels that are in the IOR beyond India’s EEZ for every year since 2015-2019.”[26]

Countries like India—historically non-aligned—are now shifting their policy stance, shedding their wariness of irking Chinese sentiments, and entering into “issue-based alignments” with other players of the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, like-minded countries of the Indo-Pacific region are working together in various minilateral and plurilateral platforms to maintain a peaceful global order. The world is also seeing a rise in middle-power coalitions, such as those of India, Australia, and Indonesia, as well as India, Australia, and France.

Locating the Quad

India has been engaging in various 2+2 dialogues.[j] Indeed, as the ongoing pandemic exposed the faultlines in multilateralism, there has been a proliferation of minilateral and plurilateral initiatives. The Quad, for example, is stepping up with the September 2019 Foreign Ministers Meeting, as well as the second Quad ministerial meeting in October 2020.[k] The Quad appears to be sending a signal to Beijing that they are solidifying around common security concerns, and extending to other issues including secure supply chains and a free and open Indo-Pacific.[27] Given Chinese aggressive expansionist policies, these forums have found it necessary to discuss security issues like the Chinese actions in the SCS and the East China Sea. Some ASEAN countries have also expressed that India needs to take a proper stand on the SCS dispute and not stick to the traditional position that “freedom of navigation should be maintained in the SCS”. [28]

However, the Quad countries should look to rally global support for countries like Vietnam and Malaysia who have recently lodged challenges[29] at the UN against China’s nine-dash line claims. There are reports that Vietnam, like the Philippines, is planning to take China to the International Arbitration Tribunal to hold it accountable for its vast claims. China has been trying to negotiate with the Philippines on their territorial dispute and has also been pushing Malaysia to agree to enter into bilateral consultations.[30] The Quad members should ensure that any discussion on the SCS takes place in multilateral platforms like the ASEAN or the EAS.

The Quad also needs to look at issues beyond the hard security realm: connectivity, blue economy, and capacity building, among others. They can work with India and organise maritime security workshops, maritime law workshops, and academic exchanges. They can collaborate on developing port infrastructure for greater connectivity with the Indian Ocean littorals through infrastructure development initiatives like Sagarmala, Blue Dot, the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. Helping Southeast Asian and South Pacific countries in building disaster-resilient infrastructure is another area where the Quad countries can collaborate on under PM Modi’s CDRI. The more advanced Navies of the four Quad countries can conduct workshops to provide training to the navies of the Southeast Asian countries, and workshops with the coast guards can also be organised. All four countries of the Quad need to work together to strengthen their influence in Southeast Asia.[l]

Meanwhile, in the West, the European Union, mainly led by France has been heavily invested in the maritime security aspects of the Western Indian Ocean. It has provided capacity building and training assistance to all the littorals in the region. France and UK have welcomed greater Indian participation in this region, mainly because of India’s sheer workforce and expertise in providing training to coast guards and maintenance and operation of ships. Given the Australia-India-France Trilateral held in September 2020, there are opportunities for more minilaterals like India-France-Australia, India-Japan-France, India-France-Kenya, and India-France-South Africa.

The Pillars of India’s IPOI

1. Maritime Security

Over 90 percent of global trade is conducted through the maritime route, with a value that has grown from US$6 trillion to about US$20 trillion in 15 years.[31] Strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific thus depends on the ability to reap economic benefits from the oceans and to respond to the challenges therein. These challenges are multi-faceted: sea-borne terrorism; piracy in the waters of the Indian Ocean, Sulu Sea, and SCS; climate change; natural and man-made disasters; illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and maritime disputes and flashpoints like the SCS. These disputes hamper progress toward inclusive regional maritime security cooperation.[32] Despite problems posed by complex geography, varying levels of resources for maritime enforcement in littoral countries exacerbating the difficulties faced by law enforcement agencies, Southeast Asian and African governments have launched unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral initiatives to improve regional maritime security. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Maritime Security

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources

2. Maritime Ecology and Maritime Resources

Blue Economy is increasingly being recognised as an important dimension to future sustainable development of oceans and their resources. However, resource exploitation, human-induced habitat degradation, and other form of anthropogenic activities and the effects of climate change have contributed to the drastic plunge in ocean health and ecosystem. In fisheries, for example, many countries across the Indo-Pacific have productive fisheries and strong laws governing them, yet these resources continue to remain vulnerable to destructive fishing practices and overfishing. In WIOR, 35 percent of the fish stocks are fully exploited in the region, whereas over 28 percent are overexploited.[33] Overfishing, foreign fishing, and IUU practices are also depleting fish stocks in the South China Sea and destroying habitat in the Coral Triangle that spans much of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.[34] To be sure, India and other countries have initiated programmes to arrest these issues. (See Table 3.)

Table 3. Maritime Ecology and Maritime Sources

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources

3. Capacity Building and Information Sharing

Effective maritime enforcement capacity begins with strong maritime domain awareness (MDA).[m] This capacity is vital for promoting marine safety, responding to vessels in distress, stopping illegal activity, tracking at-sea transshipments, and protecting waters from illegal incursions by foreign vessels. Most countries must rely on multilateral information-sharing.

The idea envisioned by India under its IPOI and SAGAR doctrine is to generate seamless, real-time, holistic picture of the wider Indo-Pacific region. This provides an opportunity for countries to work towards strengthening links between the Western and Eastern Indian Ocean through collective exercises.

India has launched its own Indian Ocean Region-Information Fusion Centre (IFC-IOR), which has established linkages with over 18 countries and 15 maritime security agencies.[35] Information sharing can be done through direct communication and by sharing agreements between the respective maritime agencies or could find new mechanisms to work with regional information fusion centers. There are a host of regional centers dedicated to the surveillance of maritime spaces and sea lanes of communication across the Indo-Pacific.

Table 4. Capacity Building and Information Sharing

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources
Figure 1. Information-Sharing and Fusion Centres in the Indo-Pacific

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources

4. Maritime Connectivity

Connectivity and proper port infrastructure is the bedrock of maritime trade, shipping, and maritime transport. India’s east and west coast comprise 12 major ports along with several minor ones. Through its Sagarmala project, India is upgrading its physical infrastructure, digitisation process, adjusting its regulatory measures to overhaul the port infrastructure and operations in the country.[36]

Some of the maritime connectivity initiatives undertaken by India are listed in Table 5, followed by three figures that detail the proposed ports and coastal EEZs under India’s Sagarmala project, the location of Sittwe port, and the location of Aceh and Sabang port.

Table 5. Maritime Connectivity

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources
Figure 2: Proposed ports and coastal economic zones under the Sagarmala project

Source: SagarMala - Ministry of Shipping, GOI, Government of India
Figure 3: Location of Sittwe port

Figure 4: Location of Aceh and Sabang

Source: Authors’ own, created on Google maps

5. Disaster Management

Natural disasters like cyclones and tsunamis not only wreak havoc on the shores of the littorals but also have a detrimental impact on maritime trade and connectivity. This collective concern has emerged as a prospective arena for countries to collaborate on initiatives in disaster management. The ANI—which are in the Andaman Sea and close to these Southeast Asian littorals—are more vulnerable and thus classified under ‘Very High Damage Risk Zone,’ often experiencing intense seismicity.[37]

Table 6. Disaster Management

Source: Authors’ own, from various sources

Key Challenges

The Indo-Pacific is replete with maritime territorial disputes, from the Persian Gulf to the mid-Indian Ocean Chagos archipelago, to the Southwest Pacific. The most noteworthy of these disputes include the Senkakus/Diaoyutai (Japan- China); the Pratas Islands (Taiwan-China); the Paracels (China-Vietnam); Scarborough Shoal (China-Philippines); and the Spratly archipelago (China-Vietnam-Philippines-Malaysia-Brunei) and Kenya-Somalia territorial dispute.[38] These disputes make international collaboration difficult to consider; even agreements on sustainable fisheries management are elusive.

Another concern for the littorals of the eastern side will be the fear of irking Chinese sentiments, given their economic dependencies on China, and in the context of the worsening SCS disputes. Further, they have a sensitivity to working with a third country which can compromise their own sovereign stand and the principle of ASEAN centrality.[n]

Moreover, there are various limitations that are confronting the Indian Navy. Although it is now more networked and technologically enabled, the Navy continues to face budgetary constraints: its budgetary allocation has reduced from 18 percent of the defence budget in 2012-2013, to 13 percent in 2018.[39] This negatively impacts India’s future force planning and capability development. Coordination and building synergies between various stakeholders are a formidable task facing the Indian Navy.

It has not helped that India has a poor track record of converting capitals into deliverables or influence and needs to work towards bridging the gap between its commitment and implementation. Most of the IOR littorals lack the capacity to ensure the security of their declared maritime zones and look towards India to ensure its security and patrol the seas. However, such assistance would require sustained maritime deployments that would need assured budgetary support. Additionally, when it comes to allocation of resources, there is hardly any concept of prioritisation in the Ministry of Defence. There is also little dialogue between the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs.[40]

Policy Proposals

India has stayed away from taking a definitive position on the contested power politics in the Indo-Pacific and has largely maintained cordial relations with most countries and stakeholders in the region. The IPOI seeks to promote a forum under which countries deliberate cooperative ways to secure maritime boundaries, promote free trade and sustainable use of marine resources. The IPOI echoes India’s plurilateral approach of engagement and focuses not only on ASEAN centrality, but also on Indo-Pacific connectivity, sustainable infrastructure and economic cooperation leading to regional integration.[41]

This section outlines specific proposals on how the IPOI’s pillars could work around such “cooperative, consultative, inclusive” framework. The aim is to offer a broad spectrum of policy areas and initiatives, from government-to-government to people-to-people. These policies are sufficiently broad to accommodate a wide range of activities and engagements, from highly informal conversations to institutionalised cooperation—both bottom-up and top-down initiatives. The core of these proposals are in the maritime domain, as it is expected to be the most obvious point of strategic convergence.


  • Track-1 maritime security dialogues and workshops over regional issues such as peacekeeping, counterterrorism, piracy, IUU fishing, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. The naval heads of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia, Japan France, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Sri Lanka can participate in these events.

  • Meetings of Indian and ASEAN naval heads, initially on the sidelines of the ADMM Plus meetings, which can then be elevated to yearly formal meetings.

  • Coordinated patrols[o] conducted with the Indonesian Navy in the Sunda and Lombok straits, since these straits are strategically important for all three countries, for their interests in the Indian Ocean. These straits are being increasingly used for human trafficking. Additionally, there is a growing presence of Chinese vessels and submarines in these straits. [42]

  • An exercise involving the coast guards of the ASEAN countries. Considering that BAKAMLA (the Indonesian Coast Guard) is a new establishment, it is possible to provide training at the Indian naval war colleges.

  • The ASEAN countries could invite India to the ASEAN Coast Guard and Law Enforcement Forum, or India can initiate an India-ASEAN Coast Guard Forum where regular exercises and interactions between the Indian and the coast guards of the ASEAN countries can take place. Capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegations under this forum can be organised. Such exercises can also be conducted with the National Coast Guard of Mauritius, Seychelle’s Coast Guard, and Kenya’s Coast Guard. Just like India does with Mozambique, a team from Indian Coast Guard could be stationed in these other African countries to train their crews and provide support for the maintenance and operation of their naval ships.

  • In 2020, the EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean II (EU CRIMARIO-II) project was launched which supports regional countries’ endeavours to enhance maritime situational awareness in WIOR. The project is looking to expand its geographical scope towards South Asia and Southeast Asia. India is situated right in between the two key MDA stakeholders in the wider Indo Pacific i.e., IFC based in Changi, Singapore, and the EU CRIMARIO II. Both these organisations have launched their own information-sharing tools: IFC Singapore’s Information-Sharing System (IRIS) and EU CRIMARIO II’s Indian Ocean Regional Information Sharing (IORIS) platform. Since India has also launched its own Indian Ocean Region-Information Fusion Centre (IFC-IOR), there are ample opportunities for India to collaborate with these organisations.

  • Not only has India already become an observer to the Indian Ocean Commission (COI) in March 2020, and to the Djibouti Code of Conduct and its 2017 Jeddah Amendment, India is also posting naval liaison officers at the RMIFC in Madagascar and European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) in Abu Dhabi.[43] This will help deepen MDA in WIOR by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information-sharing and exchange.

  • India must invite naval liaison officers from African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa to be posted at IFC-IOR. France has already deployed a liaison officer in December 2019, and Mauritius and Seychelles have expressed interest to deputise their liaison officers. In 2019, under the aegis of IFC-IOR, the Indian Navy hosted a maritime information-sharing workshop that was attended by delegates from around 29 countries across the Indo-Pacific.[44] This workshop led to a BIMSTEC Coastal Security Workshop in November 2019 that was attended by many countries. Because East African countries also depend on maritime trade for their economic development, such workshops could be hosted by Indian Navy for the Western Indian Ocean countries.

  • Deals can be entered into with the Indian shipyards like Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai, Cochin Shipyard Limited in Chennai, or Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Kolkata to supply patrol vessels and coast guard ships to the Indonesian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Kenyan coast guards. Countries can negotiate about implementing mandated fitting of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) class-based transponders in all small boats that are used for illegal activities.

  • The naval exercises between countries with India and/or ASEAN Multilateral Naval exercise can introduce disaster preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery.

People-to-people, civil society, and institutional/organisational linkages

  • Education exchanges and training exercises must be expanded to include all levels—from the academy to the senior staff colleges. Broader joint research on maritime studies involving think tanks and universities from India, Australia, Japan, and the ASEAN countries could strengthen bottom-up approaches to maritime security architecture-building.

  • Track-II workshops centered on capacity-building, maritime safety, and security for Indo-Pacific coast guards, to be led by India.

  • Workshops on both maritime domain awareness and UNCLOS familiarity amongst the maritime security practitioners of India, ASEAN, Australia, France, Japan, South Africa.[45] Given the ongoing SCS dispute, the importance of understanding and interpreting different regional views on how “freedom of navigation” applies to foreign military activity in exclusive economic zones cannot be ignored.

  • Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand can be potential partners for India to work along with on many aspects of Blue Economy, primarily on sustainable use of ocean resources: reducing marine plastic debris, and curbing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Given that the dumping of marine plastic debris is one of the focus areas in India’s IPOI, India and Indonesia can form a Working Group along with other littorals like Malaysia and Thailand to deal with issues in the eastern Indian Ocean.

  • Apart from collaborations between the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) and University of Mauritius, coastal engineering courses could be undertaken by other IIMs and other universities in African countries such as University of Seychelles. India and other countries could explore not only short-term courses, but also developing Master of Science (MSC) and long-term higher-education courses on coastal management and coastal engineering techniques.

  • Future collaborations can happen between IITM and the Department of Aquatic Resources Management of Institut Pertanian Bogor, Indonesia for short-term courses on Aquatic resource management. There can be joint research conducted between these universities and institutes, to help small island nations in addressing their climate change challenges.

  • India can conduct theme-based seminars on topics such as “strengthening legal provisions for marine habitat conservation”, or “preservation of marine protected areas and locally managed marine areas”, “legal provisions of IUU fishing”, and exploring cooperation among marine law enforcement agencies of different countries across the Indo-Pacific.

  • Plastic waste leakage from municipal waste collection in cities across the Indo-Pacific countries is a vital challenge. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste and United Nations Habitat’s joint project to reduce plastic waste leakage currently targets six cities in Eastern Africa and Southern Asia: Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangalore in India. This project can be extended to include other cities in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, South Africa, and the Philippines.

  • Fisheries management workshops, one that is done for Somalia and Yemen (Somali-Yemen Sustainable Programme – SYDP), should be extended to other countries that have interest such as Seychelles, Kenya, and Tanzania.

  • India’s National Fisheries Development Board must look to expand linkages with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute, and Seychelles Fishing Authority.

  • The ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment works as a forum for coordinating ASEAN initiatives on sustainable marine resource management. By consistently bringing together member states for project collaboration, ASEAN creates an environment of mutual understanding and solidarity in Southeast Asia. India’s National Fisheries Development Board can partner with this Working Group and host conferences on sustainable use of marine resources in the Eastern Indian Ocean. Further work can happen between India’s National Fisheries Development Board and the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment on synchronising mandates that govern best practices in the blue economy and fisheries sectors.

  • There is tremendous potential in advancing maritime research in the Pacific for issues like sustainable energy and climate change. India’s contribution to knowledge and adaptation on resilience, adaptation and mitigation can lead to friendlier relations.

  • The IPOI could be used to establish greater structural linkages between IORA and other multilateral groupings or initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries. [46]

  • The MEA along with the IORA Secretariat could also launch a Blue Economy Task Force that would comprise representatives from governments, private, and business sector, for sustained dialogue and follow up.

  • India should look to develop and popularise the concept of Green or Blue Bonds[p] as has been done successfully by Seychelles.

  • In areas of transportation of minerals that are recovered from deep seabed, storage and port facilities, India could look to develop and explore business opportunities with countries like South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore in infrastructure and logistics that may be required.

  • India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) can organise workshops and joint research programmes on awareness and best practices among countries.

  • The Naval War Colleges of the US, India, Australia, Japan, and Indonesia can collaborate and conduct structured programmes for the training of in-service military officers.

  • India can explore deputing retired naval and coast guard officers who have operational expertise for providing training on the ground and building stronger links with IPOI partner countries. This will bring the much-needed domain expertise and overcome capacity constraints within India’s own developmental programmes and initiatives.

Infrastructure development and connectivity

  • Indonesia is planning to host the Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Summit in 2021,[47] and this will be a great platform for India, Australia, Japan, and the US to attract partners for infrastructure development programmes. In recent years, all these countries have started or announced plans to deepen their economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. The US has initiated the Infrastructure Transaction and Assistant Network and Blue Dot Network; Japan is working on its Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure; Australia plans to build new regional economic connectivity in South Asia and has earmarked $25 million for the venture;[48] and India and Japan announced the Asia Africa Growth Corridor in 2017.

  • The ports of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia are more advanced than those on the eastern coast of India. Therefore, India-ASEAN Connectivity Summits can be organised by India where the port authorities of these countries can be invited.[q] India can also draw lessons from their experience.

  • A Chamber for Shipping to promote shipping cooperation between India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. As a business-to-business entity, the chamber could be a sub-unit of the existing trade and industry chambers of the two countries, or else a separate one.[49]

  • Conferences around the theme of promoting shipping cooperation between the countries of the Indo-Pacific.

  • India’s Sagarmala project should aim at collaborating with other regional connectivity initiatives like the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) of Thailand, the Sea Toll Highway of Indonesia, the ‘Build Build Build’ of the Philippines; and the ASEAN Masterplan on Connectivity 2025.

  • Prospects for greater connectivity with other ports in Western Sumatra besides Aceh and Sabang should be explored.[r] The development of India’s eastern ports and the creation of new ones in Enayam, Paradip, Sirkhadi and Sagar Island should provide greater opportunities for ports in Sumatra.[50] Both West Sumatra and Northern Sumatra border the Indian Ocean.

Figure 5: Ports bordering Western, Northern Sumatra and Southern Java

Source: Authors’ own, created on Google Maps
  • The Government of Thailand is putting emphasis in stepping up the infrastructure on the Ranong port, which is near South Asia. Thailand plans to develop Ranong as an international port, increase its connectivity with the Andaman coast, and link it with the multimodal transport of the BIMSTEC and Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The Trilateral Highway Project with India and Myanmar will be an important development for Ranong in terms of multimodal links with Myanmar and the Kolkata Port in India and India’s northeast.[51]

Figure 6: Location of Ranong port

Source: Thai Ports Map | sbta
  • India can initiate talks on coastal shipping, cruise tourism with Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia under the ASEAN Maritime Forum, as well as with Mauritius and Seychelles under the Indian Ocean Commission.

  • India has adequate expertise and capacity for shipbuilding. India can strengthen inter-island water transport in the WIOR by developing the region’s inter-island ship services and foreshore ferry services just like it does in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There is enormous possibility of reciprocating this same technique in East African waters. India can explore the possibility of gifting small passenger ships to enhance inter-island connectivity between the Vanilla islands i.e., Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros who can run it on their own. Indian entrepreneurs might be willing to run such ferry services if they are provided with some concessional financing.

  • Countries like Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Rwanda, United Kingdom, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Italy, Mexico, Fiji, and Mongolia are members of PM Modi’s recently launched Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). Other countries should also be encouraged to become members of this initiative, as they face challenges in building and/or retrofitting infrastructure to withstand disasters. Alongside IORA, the CDRI could be another initiative where the countries can cooperate on medium-term economic outcomes.

Strengthening inter-ministerial coordination

  • India needs to look at Blue Economy with a holistic perspective by institutionalising the Ministry of External Affairs as the nodal point for dialogue, coordination, and research.

  • India ought to develop a Defence Diplomacy Fund that will require collaborative effort from the ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Commerce and Industry, and Shipping. The financial resources for such a Fund must be shared and allocated in a prudent manner.

  • Although the entire resource pool is going to be limited, the allocation which the Indian Navy will receive for foreign assistance has to be prioritised and shared with the relevant executing agencies.

  • If India wants to play a leading role in ensuring the safety, security, and stability of the maritime domain and convert its financial clout to strategic influence, it must push for a coalition of all the agencies concerned. Perhaps the National Security Council Secretariat or a proposed National Maritime Commission will be the most appropriate organisation to carry out such a role.[52]

  • The ministries of External Affairs and Defence should work with the academia as well as think tanks to work towards a broader perspective.

  • The engagement could be expanded to include defence educational and research institutions. Meetings should involve the broader civilian defence communities.


India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific is one in which freedom of navigation, overflight, sustainable development, protection of the maritime environment, and an open, free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade and investment system are guaranteed for all. The IPOI was launched by India in 2019 with the aim to manage, conserve, sustain, and secure the maritime domain. Since then, India has been working to strengthen practical cooperation with its like-minded partner countries to provide solutions to global challenges. It can hardly be overemphasised that the security, stability, peace, and prosperity of the vast Indo-Pacific region—accounting for 64 percent of the world’s population and 62 percent of global GDP—is vital for the world. Although every nation and region have their own imperatives and priorities, India, being one of the earliest proponents of the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ concept, has continued to urge partners to undertake cooperative endeavours to create a safe and secure maritime domain in the region.

Some challenges are likely to remain. For one, the smaller littorals, the ASEAN and African countries would be unwilling to get caught between great-power rivalries and also hesitant to be part of initiatives that would purposefully exclude any particular country. In this regard, the bottom-up approaches suggested under the various pillars can be a good starting point for the short term. In the medium and long term, other more formal measures can be embarked upon.

Given India’s sheer size, its capacities and widening interests, it will play a significant role in the post-COVID-19 global revival. Towards this end, building purposive partnerships with like-minded countries of the Indo-Pacific will continue to inform India’s plurilateral approach of engagement under the IPOI.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Interview: The Royal Canadian Navy’s Role in the Indo-Pacific Region​

In recent years, Japan has strengthened its security ties with Canada, particularly through the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). Both naval forces have strengthened their cooperation through the bilateral joint exercise KAEDEX and by ensuring the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) against North Korea.

The RCN routinely conducts Operation PROJECTION, which dispatches naval vessels to waters around the world, and Operation NEON, which monitors North Korean-registered vessels for the illegal ship to ship cargo transfer at sea. These are important activities that strengthen cooperation with the JMSDF and other navies located in the Indo-Pacific region and demonstrate Canada’s presence in the region.

Thus, at the end of 2020, Yoshihiro Inaba conducted an interview with Admiral Art McDonald, the Commander of the Canadian Navy at the time (appointed as Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff on 14 January 2021). They discussed the objectives of the RCN’s recent strengthening of activities in the Indo-Pacific region and various matters concerning the RCN.

RCN, JMSDF and the Indo-Pacific Region​

HMCS Winnipeg sailing alongside JS Shimakaze in November 2020 during KAEDEX (fun fact: “Kaede” means “maple tree” in Japanese). Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair, MARPAC Imaging Services.

Yohihiro Inaba: The RCN has deepened its cooperation with the JMSDF through KAEDEX and port visit etc. What do you perceive JMSDF to be?

Admiral Art McDonald: We’ve worked very closely with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on many occasions, such as during KAEDEX, and our experience collaborating with them has always been positive. They are a highly professional navy and we are honoured to work with them on a consistent basis, exchanging best practice, sharing our skills, and promoting maritime peace and security in the region.

What is important to note is that Canada and Japan share many common values, such as promoting the rules-based international order and actively engaging in the multilateral international system. The vibrant diplomatic ties between our two countries are mirrored by the friendly and growing bilateral relations between the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the JMSDF. Before the pandemic, we had conducted an exchange of personnel in the previous KAEDEX. During that time, sailors from our two navies were immersed in the culture of their host ships and experienced life in the shoes of their fellow sailors, increasing military and cultural ties between Canada and Japan.

Yoshihiro Inaba: In the Indo-Pacific region, especially in the East and South China Seas, there is currently a challenge to the rules-based order and an attempt to change the status quo by force. In this regard, Japan and the US are trying to counter this with a common vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, but how committed is/will the RCN be to this situation?

Admiral Art McDonald: Canada is committed to protecting the underlying tenets of international law. This is important to us because our shared prosperity is based upon open sea lines of communication and the RCN does its duty, with partners such as the JMSDF, in maintaining freedom of the seas. In fact, in June last year, the Ministry of Defence of Japan and the Department of National Defence of Canada issued a joint statement on defence cooperation that made several references to Canada cooperatively engaging with partners to advance the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region.

I would like to highlight that during the bilateral meeting in Tokyo on June 3, 2019, the Minister of National Defence of Canada, Harjit Singh Sajjan, and the Minister of Defense of Japan, Takeshi Iwaya, confirmed their commitment to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs). They also exchanged their views on the recent short-range ballistic missile launches by North Korea, and confirmed that their defense authorities would remain vigilant. The Ministers shared the view that North Korea continues to violate UNSCRs, and for the full implementation of UNSCRs, they reaffirmed their intention to work together to address the evasion of the sanctions by North Korea, including illicit ship-to-ship transfers involving North Korean-flagged vessels.

Another important point that I want to mention is that during their meeting last year, the Canadian and Japanese defence ministers expressed their serious concerns regarding the situation in the East and South China Seas, and strongly opposed unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based maritime order, including the militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea. They also reaffirmed the significance of pursuing demilitarization and self-restraint, the freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes according to relevant international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They called for the complete and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and underlined that the Code of Conduct (COC) should be consistent with international law including the UNCLOS and should not prejudice the rights of countries which are not involved in the COC negotiation.

For our part, we are committed to support Canada’s decision to renew its participation in a multinational initiative to counter illicit maritime activities prohibited by UNSCRs through Operation NEON, under which Canada will periodically deploy Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ships, aircraft and personnel over the next two years.

CSC and Halifac-class Modernization​

Royal Canadian Navy Unveils Latest Details on CSC Frigates
“CSC will ensure that Canada can continue to monitor and defend its waters and make significant contributions to international naval operations. These ships will be Canada’s major surface component of maritime combat power.” Lockheed Martin image.

Yohihiro Inaba: It is my understanding that Canada is currently working under the defence policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged” to ensure the safe return of Canadian Armed Force soldiers from their missions. From that perspective, what is your assessment of the current military situation in the Indo-Pacific region (e.g., the emergence of the A2/AD environment) and the current and future posture of the RCN in response (e.g., the modernization of the Halifax class and the Canadian Surface Combatants program)?

Admiral Art McDonald: The RCN is taking unprecedented measures to protect our personnel and maintain our operational effectiveness to conduct mission-essential military operations. Our sailors are highly trained professionals, well-supported, and well-equipped to accomplish their tasks.

As indicated in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government is committed to acquiring fifteen new Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) which will ensure that Canada can continue to monitor and defend its waters and make significant contributions to international naval operations. These ships will be Canada’s major surface component of maritime combat power. With its effective warfare capability and versatility, it can be deployed rapidly anywhere in the world, either independently or as part of a Canadian or international task group. The CSC will be able to deploy for many months with a limited logistic footprint. The CSC provides the ideal foundation for the RCN’s future fleet, designed to serve Canada and the sailors of tomorrow well into the latter half of the 21st century.

With regard to your question about the Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELEX) project, this venture managed both the modernization of the combat systems and a planned mid-life ship refit program to ensure the frigates remain effective throughout their service life. This work encompassed modernization of the ships’ platform, including ships’ systems upgrades, acquisition and installation of new capabilities, such as enhanced radar, new electronic warfare system, upgraded communications and missiles integrated into a new Combat Management System. The first modernized Halifax-class frigates were delivered in late 2014, with the last ship was delivered in 2018.

CH-148 Cyclone​

CH148 Cyclone Helicopter Royal Canadian Navy
A CH148 Cyclone helicopter from the Canadian frigate VILLE DE QUÉBEC. Atlantic Ocean January 21, 2020. ©Terence Wallet/Marine Nationale/Défense

Yoshihiro Inaba: HMCS Winnipeg is currently deployed in the Indo-Pacific region with CH-148 Cyclone, what is the importance of the CH-148, especially in Operation NEON?

Admiral Art McDonald: The CH-148 Cyclone is one of the most capable maritime helicopters in the world, and as such, it plays an important role in various RCN missions, including Operation NEON. In fact, it is Canada’s main ship-borne maritime helicopter, which provides air support to the RCN. The Cyclone can be used for surface and sub-surface surveillance, search and rescue missions, tactical transport and more. It can operate during the day or night and in most weather conditions to support missions in Canada and around the world.

In addition to the Cyclone, HMCS Winnipeg was also joined for Operation NEON by a Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment with CP-140 Aurora Long Range Patrol Aircraft and approximately 40 personnel, based in Kadena, Japan, in support of this effort.

Canada’s participation in this coordinated effort during Operation NEON is a demonstration of the international solidarity in support of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Canada is a committed and reliable player in the Indo-Pacific region, and the Department of National Defence of Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces are eager to utilize its spectrum of capabilities in support of UNSCR sanctions enforcement.

Covid-19 pandemic​

Operation NEON 2020: In collaboration with Canada’s allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, HMCS Winnipeg, their embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, and the CP-140 Aurora crew distinguished themselves while monitoring attempts to evade UNSC sanctions against North Korea. Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair.

Yoshihiro Inaba: Through Operation PROJECTION and Operation NEON, Winnipeg is deployed in the Indo-Pacific region for approximately three months. In this regard, the communication with the crew and their families is especially important in the unique context of COVID-19’s expansion, but how do you ensure this with Winnipeg?

Admiral Art McDonald: People have long been, and remain, the core of our Navy’s success. The RCN places an unprecedented focus on ensuring our people and their families are well-supported, diverse and resilient – physically, psychologically and socially. We appreciate that Navy families are the strength behind the uniform and we make sure that deployed personnel have the connectivity to communicate with their loved ones back home. For example, the sailors deployed on board HMCS Winnipeg keep in touch with their families through social media, phone calls, and video calls. In addition, HMCS Winnipeg maintains a Facebook page that shows the great work that deployed members are doing.

In terms of the welfare of members during the Covid-19 pandemic, the RCN takes the health and well-being of its sailors very seriously. As such, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCN has taken several steps to mitigate the risk to the naval team, both in sea-going and shore-based units, ensuring Canada’s Naval Forces remain “Ready to Help, Ready to Lead, Ready to Fight.” A number of precautionary measures were put in place to protect our sailors and their ability to deploy, when needed.

These precautionary health measures include increased cleaning routines on board ships and personal hygiene for our ships companies. In order to safely proceed to sea in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, sailors embarking on an HMCS are required to observe a quarantine period according to the recommendations of public health authorities in order to ensure the health and safety of the ship’s company. They may also undergo COVID testing prior to embarkation as a preventative measure, and maintain a COVID-free ‘bubble’ that allows an element of normality on board the ship. These measures aims to ensure our sailors remain safe, healthy, and able to complete their mission.

While the ship is still coming alongside in foreign ports for fuel and stores, the approximately 240 sailors and air crew who are currently deployed onboard HMCS Winnipeg on Operation PROJECTION Asia-Pacific and Operation NEON the crew maintain a COVID-free bubble by not proceeding ashore so as to avoid any external vectors.

Diversity in the RCN
Some of the crewmembers of HMCS Winnipeg: 31 out of approximately 240 deployed personnel are female.

Yoshihiro Inaba: CAF is currently working on increasing women’s advancement and diversity as a whole, is there any work being done with Winnipeg on this?

Admiral Art McDonald: Canada is a world leader in both the proportion of women in its military and the areas in which they can serve. In fact, women have been serving in Canada’s military for over a century and today play a pivotal role in defending Canada’s safety and security. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was one of the first military forces to allow women to serve in all occupations, and today is setting ambitious goals to increase representation across all trades and ranks. Our objective is that by 2026, 1 in 4 CAF members will be women. Successful recruiting efforts saw the percentage of women enrolling in the Regular Force increase from 13.2% in 2015/16 to 17.2% in 2017/18.

In the RCN, around 21% of our sailors are women as of February 2020. Our ongoing recruiting efforts focus on raising women’s awareness of the career opportunities available in the RCN through engagement and outreach, advertising and social media, media partnerships, and one-on-one recruitment efforts.

In the case of HMCS Winnipeg, 31 out of approximately 240 deployed personnel are female. The number of deployed female RCN sailors can vary between rotations of personnel, depending on individual availability and other operational requirements.

The women and men of the RCN are the foundation of our service. They are among the most professional, highly educated, and highly trained sailors in the world. The RCN knows that no matter which community an individual comes from, a respectful and open work environment is important for everyone to do their jobs well. Diversity in all its forms – including gender – and inclusion, are core values that are considered in everything the RCN sets out to do.

Canada’s participation in Keen Sword​

U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces kick off Keen Sword
U.S. Navy ships assigned to Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group joined ships of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Escort Flotilla 1, Escort Flotilla 4, and the Royal Canadian Navy, in formation while aircraft from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, JMSDF and Japan Air Self Defense Force fly in formation during Keen Sword. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Askia Collins)

Yoshihiro Inaba: This is the second time the RCN has participated in the exercise “Keen Sword”; what do you think this participation in this exercise means to the RCN?

Admiral Art McDonald: The value of exercising with other like-minded and partner nations, such as in KEEN SWORD, cannot be underestimated. Not only does it offer a glimpse into new warfighting tactics, it helps ensure that the RCN remains adaptive while enhancing partnerships which are critical to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. It also builds important personal ties between our personnel and through that comes trust.

The RCN participated in KEEN SWORD for the first time in 2018 as an observer. This year, however, HMCS Winnipeg had an active role. The exercise included anti-submarine warfare serials (ASW), cross-deck landings between Winnipeg’s embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter and helicopters on board U.S. and Japanese ships, a Replenishment-at-Sea with the USNS Tippecanoe, and a final War at Sea Exercise. From a warfighting perspective, and being that KEEN SWORD is primarily ASW-focused, KEEN SWORD is an opportunity to sharpen those capabilities as well as hone the ship’s ability to integrate with other forces and strike groups in the execution of a mission.

When not participating in ASW serials, HMCS Winnipeg’s embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter conducted several deck landings on board other ships, including the USS Ronald Reagan and JS Kaga aircraft carriers, and the USS Shiloh. Concurrently, helicopters from the USS Shiloh and JS Kaga conducted cross-deck training on HMCS Winnipeg.

Cross-deck training is conducted to increase the interoperability of Maritime Helicopter (MH) crews and allied naval ships. Landing on ships in a unique skill to the MH community and is a skill MH pilots need to master to operate safely and effectively at sea with the RCN. Familiarization with the procedures of allied navies allows our MH crews to react to tasks requiring intra-navy cooperation, such as medical evacuations.

KEEN SWORD culminated in a War at Sea exercise, consolidating each participant’s warfighting capability in an effort to improve and practice joint and bi-lateral interoperability and mutual tactical skill for maritime operations. For HMCS Winnipeg, it is also the culmination of six months of hard work. It also allows our personnel to build upon lessons learned during RIMPAC, see how far we’ve come, and integrate with these forces and test our mettle against some of the most combat-capable forces in the world today.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

India, Japan in talks with Russia to create trilateral & push Modi’s ‘Act Far East’ policy​

New Delhi: India, along with Japan, is now looking to provide a major boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act Far East’ policy by kick-starting a trilateral arrangement with Russia this year under the larger Indo-Pacific framework, ThePrint has learnt.

This India-Russia-Japan trilateral is being explored to give fruition to New Delhi’s vision of making the Indo-Pacific strategic initiative “inclusive and not just against one country”, sources told ThePrint.

According to sources, this trilateral cooperation will also be seen as an expansion plan of the Quad grouping, which consists of India, Japan, Australia and the US while furthering Prime Minister Modi’s plan to develop the Russian Far East for which New Delhi had even announced a credit line of $1 billion in September 2019 during his visit to Vladivostok.

A Track-II dialogue on the trilateral took place last week between the think-tanks of the three countries for the first time. It was hosted by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), which was partnered by the Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA) from Japan and the Far East Investment and Export Agency (FEIEA) of Russia.

According to an outcome document of the dialogue, this trilateral grouping is exploring cooperation in the areas of economic, social and regional issues while also harnessing economic opportunities in the Russian Far East for mutual benefit.

The trilateral cooperation may also look into the “growing links” of these three countries in the Arctic “recognising the interconnected nature of regional development alongside the Russian Far East”, the document states.

D.B. Venkatesh Varma, Indian Ambassador to Russia, while addressing the Russian media Monday said that the trilateral Track-II dialogue can be seen as a “major offshoot” of Modi’s Act Far East policy, including its outreach in the Arctic region.

Sources, however, said that while Russia might have “reservations” in recognising the trilateral arrangement to be part of the Indo-Pacific, it is nevertheless keen to push it forward keeping in mind the development plan of its far east region.

Rajiv Bhatia, a veteran diplomat and distinguished fellow at Gateway House, said, “This is an attempt by the Asian countries to broaden the outreach of the Quad powers. Russia is also a Pacific power and so it’s role in the Indo-Pacific is important. However, Russia has to agree to this and they have to be willing to cooperate. Only if Russia begins to show interest, will it be successful.”

Russia may have reservations

New Delhi has already expressed its desire to bring Moscow into the framework of Indo-Pacific, which Russia is severely against as Moscow sees the Indo-Pacific and Quad as anti-China policies.

“From the Indian and Japanese sides, the interest is quite high, but I personally do not think Russia is much interested in this,” Harsh V. Pant, Professor at King’s College in London and Director, Studies and Head of Strategic Studies at Observer Research Foundation, told ThePrint. “India is hoping that this trilateral might point Russia to a direction but Indo-Pacific is not going to cut much ice with them. But given India’s closeness with Russia, it might be able to persuade Russia to agree to this.”

“While the idea of investing in Russia’s Far East leading up to the Arctic region may find some acceptance, it will be a challenge to have the operational heft,” Pant added.

At the Shangri La Dialogue in 2018, PM Modi had clearly spelt out India’s strategy for Indo-Pacific even as he stressed it to be a “free, open, inclusive region.”

A feasibility study will soon be undertaken to identify areas of cooperation under this trilateral arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has already reached out to Kremlin with US President Joe Biden calling his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Tuesday.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Why France Has a Much Better India Strategy Than America​

France is famous for fashion, and not just the kind you wear. Intellectual fashions, too, seem to emanate from Paris. The French genius for fashion is now reshaping that geopolitical concept du jour, “the Indo-Pacific region.” For the United States, the Indo-Pacific is an extension of the Pacific Ocean area patrolled by its Japan-based 7th Fleet. For Japan and Australia, too, the Pacific comes first. But for France, the Indo-Pacific begins east of Africa and continues to the western American seaboard, mirroring India’s understanding of geography. While the United States and its Quadrilateral Security Dialogue partners Australia and Japan see Indo-Pacific strategy as a way to draw India into their geopolitical standoff with China, France has taken the term at face value and put India at its center.

That doesn’t mean that France’s Indo-Pacific strategy is just a seasonal fad. France’s official Indo-Pacific strategy document emphasizes the country’s role as a “mediating, inclusive and stabilizing power” in the region, and French President Emmanuel Macron speaks rousingly of answering the call of history to fulfill France’s Indo-Pacific “destiny.” Echoes of the colonial era aside, France has 8,000 troops in the region and a highly capable nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to back them up. That gives France a lot more skin in the game than, for example, its European partner and rival Germany, which instead of a true regional strategy makes do with a limp endorsement of Indo-Pacific multilateralism.

Behind the martial rhetoric, the reality of France’s military commitment to the Indo-Pacific is, above all, commercial: sales of advanced nuclear-capable Rafale fighters to India, conventional attack submarines to India and Australia, and naval missile system upgrades to Taiwan. France is also developing an Indo-Pacific footprint focused on India in big-ticket infrastructure projects and investments where state-to-state cooperation is indispensable, such as natural gas, solar energy, nuclear power, space exploration, and high-speed rail. The key to clinching all of these deals has been joint production leading to long-term technology transfer.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because China has imposed the same model on foreign investors for most of the last four decades. But many of the foreign firms that invested heavily in Chinese state-sponsored joint ventures found their intellectual property stolen by their Chinese partners—or even by the Chinese state itself. France can have more confidence in the legal systems of India and other democracies to protect French companies’ copyrights and trademarks, but investment deals requiring technology transfer can still seem inherently dubious. After all, why should countries or companies help aspiring competitors develop their own industries.
It might seem like India is repeating China’s trick with market access, and France is falling for it.

For those who invest in China, the answer has always been straightforward: They have no choice. If they want access to China’s increasingly prosperous market of 1.4 billion people, they have to play by Beijing’s rules. The fact that those rules stand in blatant violation of China’s own international commitments—to protect intellectual property, for example—is irrelevant. Absent an independent judiciary, the only promise of fair treatment is to stay useful to the Chinese Communist Party. Companies and countries alike have to make commercial and moral compromises if they want to do business in China.

India is now a rapidly developing country of nearly 1.4 billion people—and France is freely partnering with Indian companies in joint ventures, including those targeting technology transfer in such sensitive areas as defense procurement and nuclear power. Helping India climb up the development ladder is a precondition for these deals, which have received special attention as part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s signature industrial upgrading initiative, Make in India. In exchange for foreign investment in the country’s long-term development, Modi is promising a “new mindset” in which the government will act as a facilitator, not a heavy-handed regulator as in the past.

It might seem like India is repeating China’s trick with market access, and France is falling for it. But there are two big differences between foreign investments in China and the more recent French ones in India. The first and obvious difference is that India has a robust court system that enforces contracts under the rule of law. For example, the Indian government has been roundly criticized for seeking to tax foreign firms retroactively in violation of fundamental legal principles, but it has fought—and lost—these cases in international tribunals and before its own Supreme Court. The rule of law may sometimes bend in India, but it has not broken.

The second, more subtle difference between technology transfer in India and China is that France is using India to give a second life to its own last-generation technologies. The Rafale jet fighters that France has sold to India were developed in the 1980s and 1990s, and although they are still used as front-line aircraft by the French Air Force, they no longer represent the technological cutting edge. By transferring not only production but also know-how to India, France’s Dassault Aviation is in effect establishing a new manufacturing base for a product that would otherwise become obsolete.
France’s state-led dirigiste development strategy has left it well placed to succeed in countries such as India.

Similarly, even though the EPR pressurized water reactor design that Électricité de France is providing for India’s planned Jaitapur nuclear power station is thoroughly modern, it represents a commercial dead end. New nuclear power development is no longer economical in Europe, where construction costs are high and electricity demand has been falling. If Électricité de France can nurture a domestic construction capability in India, it can hope to recoup at least some of the development costs of the EPR design. It can then work with its Indian partners to export reactors from India to other energy-hungry economies in South and Southeast Asia.

By contrast, many of the problems faced by foreign companies in China stem from their use of China as a manufacturing base for their own home markets, meaning that they often put their most advanced technologies at risk. The relatively short product development cycles for electronic components and auto parts, for example, mean that last-generation products manufactured in China are only a few years—or months—out of date. Chinese companies that copy or steal foreign technologies might not be able to out-innovate the market leaders, but they can undercut them with cheap prices on almost-current products.

France’s state-led dirigiste development strategy, with its focus on fostering big national champion engineering firms, has left it flat-footed in the race to innovate high-tech consumer electronics—and has kept it from competing at all in the topsy-turvy world of social media and mobile apps. But the state-led strategy has left France well placed to succeed in highly regulated sectors such as infrastructure, energy, and defense in countries such as India, where state support and centralized investment decisions still play an outsized role in economic development. And India is an ideal low-cost base from which to export to the rest of the emerging Indo-Pacific, as the region is understood by both India and France.

India is unlikely ever to export jet fighters or nuclear power plants to the rich countries of Europe, North America, or East Asia. But it could very well emerge as the Indo-Pacific joint-venture hub for French engineering and infrastructure companies. If it does, France’s Indo-Pacific strategy may prove more enduring than the China-containment strategies of the United States, Japan, and Australia. Indigenous capacity-building for manufacturing and trade is ultimately the surest guarantee of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the French strategy is better suited than any of the others for helping the region’s countries help themselves.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

China and the West face off in the Indo-Pacific​

The Biden administration is off to fast start resetting relations with Japan and putting China on notice by forming a US Department of Defense China task force.

Japan is a key US security partner in East Asia. Amid a geostrategic shift to east, the two countries are renewing ties and looking at a much bigger picture.

Tokyo is one key in a link across the Indo-Pacific region. A renewed five-year security accord between the countries is underway, with negotiations on Japan’s costs for hosting US troops for another year nearing completion. The current five-year deal expires in March 2021.

Under the US-Japan bilateral security treaty, Tokyo covers part of the cost of housing 55,000 US military personnel in Japan, including labor and training. The negotiations began under the previous administration, but were put on hold until after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. This bilateral cost-sharing negotiation is usually concluded by December of the final year of the agreement to help Japan compile its budget. But the transition and the pandemic slowed the process considerably.

Luckily, no real time was lost once major US foreign policy positions were filled by President Biden. Driving the US relationship with Japan is China’s foreign and security policy objectives in East Asia.

China is aggressively pursuing territorial claims not only with Japan but also other countries in the region. The US Defense Department’s wide-ranging assessment of China will be presented to key principals in May-June 2021.

Biden officials are making clear to Tokyo that Chinese assertiveness around the Senkaku Islands following Beijing’s enactment of a new coast guard law is seen as confrontational and contrary to international law.

Maritime law also is being challenged by China’s actions. Article V of the US-Japan Treaty extends to the Senkaku Islands. Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Tony Blinken have all affirmed that the agreement extends to these key islands. Coming one month after the inauguration, the statements reflect Biden and his policy team’s “hard and fast” approach.

Meanwhile, China is challenging Western interests in other parts of the Indo-Pacific, raising tensions in the region.

Last week, the US sent a navy strike group with more than a dozen ships into the South China Sea. On the same day Taiwan reported multiple incursions of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defense zone near Pratas Island. The Indo-Pacific region is beginning to boil. China’s desire to encroach on Taiwan has left the island in an increasingly precarious position, even with its US backing. It is now clear that sovereignty issues involving the Taiwanese and Japanese islands are beginning to combine in one very active theater.

No doubt the security environment is changing. The Biden administration is building up capacity with the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the US) to take on China across a large geostrategic arena.

The Quad countries are looking to share operations, and allow access to each other’s maritime bases and facilities for repair and supply replenishment. The idea is to boost overall defense and security cooperation immediately.

China’s increasing operations in Ladakh and the Senkaku Islands help the US and Japan, as part of the Quad, make their own security plans for the Indo-Pacific region. US-Japanese coordination as part of the larger Quad concept is critical, as are summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries. France appears to be joining these strategic alignments with planned naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific region. All of this activity is based on the fact that China is pushing the boundaries of international law.

The Biden administration is building up capacity with the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the US) to take on China across a large geostrategic arena.
Dr. Theodore Karasik
Russia cannot be left out of this discussion because of Moscow’s Indo-Pacific interests. The US-Japan Article V agreement runs into trouble with Moscow’s views on the Kurile Islands as well as maritime fishing beds. Russia increasingly is making claims to the islands. The Kremlin knows well that heating up this territorial issue helps Moscow claim strategic and tactical territorial advantage.

How Moscow and Beijing coordinate — or not — on this type of behavior is of immediate interest.

Both sides conduct joint operations where the sole objective is to penetrate sovereign territory.

Russia and China see land and sea differently in terms of their historical destiny. The way that both countries view strategic passages ranging from the South China Sea to the Bering Strait has immediate security implications. The US-Japan security treaty and the requirements in the region now force Tokyo and Washington closer together. South Korea benefits from this activity as well given the nexus between North Korea, China and Russia. Overall, the Indo-Pacific chess game is beginning to be quite a match.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Warning from Australia: Meet the Threat of Chinese Economic Coercion to Democracy​

What do tariffs on Australian wine have to do with global democracy? For the Joe Biden administration, they represent an emerging challenge as China’s far-reaching economic coercion can threaten civil society and democratic values. China has relied upon economic measures in a nearly year-long dispute with Australia, but the core of the issue between the two countries is not economic but political—it is whether China can leverage its economic heft to impose its will upon, and receive the full deference of, a democracy. As strengthening democracy at home and abroad is a central aspect of its foreign policy plans, the Biden administration should heed the warning from Australia. With growing economic reach, China is strengthening the coercive tools at its disposal and working to perfect their use against democracies.

This is not the first time Australia has acted as the canary in the coal mine. When the Trump administration declassified its 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy, Axios reported that officials cited Australia’s experience with Chinese influence operations as strongly influencing the drafting of the document. After a string of high-profile scandals exposed pervasive covert efforts by Beijing to manipulate Australian politics, Canberra mounted a vigorous response, culminating in 2018 with a far-reaching set of counter-interference laws and reforms. Its covert operations thwarted, China has switched gears to more overt exertions of power.

Since Canberra’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in April 2020, China has deployed an array of coercive economic measures against Australia. These measures include punitive tariffs and de-facto import bans on crucial Australian agricultural exports such as barley, timber, beef, coal, and wine, threats of boycotts, warnings to potential university students, and regulatory foot-dragging delaying Australian lobster exports. In November, the Chinese embassy in Canberra provided several Australian news outlets with a dossier of fourteen grievances. Some of those complaints were economic, such as the tightening of Australian foreign investment law, and the decision to ban Huawei and ZTE from Australian 5G networks in 2018. However, other grievances were political: the “political manipulation” of calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, or the temerity to make a statement on the South China Sea.

But most striking are the grievances aimed beyond the Australian government, targeting Australian society itself. Among the grievances are the “outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs,” “an unfriendly or antagonistic report on China by the media,” and the Australian government funding an “anti-China think tank for spreading untrue reports… aimed at manipulating public opinion against China”—referring to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank partially funded by, but independent from the Australian Department of Defence. These grievances extend beyond the pale of standard diplomacy. By listing the activities of the independent media and civil society alongside those of the state, it is clear that in Beijing’s eyes, the Australian government is to be held equally responsible, raising the disquieting question of how it expects Australia to redress these wrongs.

China’s focus on the activities of civil society is perhaps tacit recognition of the essential role it played in the exposure of and response to China’s interference campaign. The scandal that kicked off the affair—the discovery that Australian senator Sam Dastyari had Chinese donors pay his bills—was first reported by the media. And it was through the dogged effort of journalists like John Garnaut and Alex Joske that the full extent of the campaign became clear. Think tanks then advanced press coverage and media reporting in influential reports that shifted the policy debate. Eventually, free and open discussion across society produced overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation that took an aggressive stance on foreign interference.

China’s measures so far have been more successful in poisoning Australian public opinion than in producing any behavioral changes in Australian civil society. Yet as tempting as it would be to point to the backlash and declare China’s coercive measures counterproductive, that would ignore their deterrent effect on other countries and the experimental value of the campaign. The sheer range of measures across industries, from universities to lobsters, all varying in intensity, suggests that Beijing is using Australia as a testing ground for economic coercion. Under observation is not just the material impact of these measures on the Australian economy, but also which industries proved most politically sensitive, which measures caused the most collateral damage at home, and how other countries and how other countries respond to these coercive tactics.

China also tests new methods, such as exploiting the political decentralization common in democracies, especially so in federal systems like Australia. In 2018, China’s National Development and Reform Commission bypassed Australia’s federal government to sign a memorandum of understanding with the opposition-led state government of Victoria for the state to take part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The move, taken without consultation by either side with Australia’s foreign ministry, increased China’s economic leverage over Australia, and generated another political constituency invested in a less confrontational relationship with China.

As one of the world’s strongest democracies, Australia will likely weather the current storm, but the Australian experience is a foreboding one in a world where democracy is already on the decline, a phenomenon that has only accelerated amidst the ongoing pandemic. Chinese economic coercion, which is increasingly sharpened and refined by experience, will likely increase the incentives for would-be authoritarians or weak and economically vulnerable democracies to clamp down on the freedom of the press and political expression at home to maintain access to Chinese markets and investment.

As Australia’s experience with Chinese interference operations shows, a vibrant civil society can act as democracy’s potent antibody against malign foreign influence. The health of civil society of U.S. partners is essential if the Biden administration’s “coalition of democracies” is to successfully push back against authoritarianism. It is crucial that the Biden administration engage with fellow democracies vulnerable to Chinese economic coercion in developing collective measures to resist coercion and ensure that civil society does not become a casualty of economic necessity.