Indo-Pacific region and The Codes of the US's Indo-Pacific Strategy Document
The definition of a very large geography connecting the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean as a single geopolitical region was first made in 1924 by the German geopolitician General Karl Haushofer (Haushofer, 1924: 551-553).
Today, the term "Indo-Pacific" is used to prevent China's increasing political and economic influence, with more emphasis on India, and the concept of "Indo-Pacific" replaces the concept of "Asia-Pacific" (Heiduk, Wacker, 2020).
The USA's Indo-Pacific Strategy Document appeared in 2019
The first “Indo-Pacific Strategy Document” by the USA was published in 2019 with the signature of Patrick Shanahan, the non-serving Deputy Minister of Defense. In this document, China was identified as the biggest enemy, while India was designated as an ally to balance China (Indo-Pacific- Strategy-Report-June-2019).
The United States granted India the status of "Major Defense Partner" in 2016 during the President Obama era, and India was the only country within the QUAD countries (USA, Australia, Japan and India) to have a land border with China.
In the first Indo-Pacific Strategy report of the USA, China is mentioned 89 times, while Russia is the country that is mentioned the most after China.
The “Indo-Pacific Strategy Document”, which was also reissued by the USA in February 2022, was an expected result of previous developments (Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, The White House: Washington, DC, 11 February 2022).
The region is home to more than half of the world's population, 2/3 of the world's economy and the seven largest armies.
At this point, it is considered that it will be useful to examine the "Summit Result Statements" with the "Strategy Documents" to make sense of the events.
It was wondered who would pick up the shattered pieces of the liberal order that had been shaken recently
Security Conference held in 2019, while emphasizing “The Liberal Order Is Disintegrating!” The main theme was “Who Will Collect the Pieces?”. At the conference in 2020, while the security positions of the USA, China and Russia were evaluated, indecision and helplessness in the face of emerging threats were emphasized.
Security strategy documents are a guide in terms of revealing the threats and the measures to be taken in general.
The most important element in the preparation of security strategy documents is to identify the threats and to put forward the measures to be taken accordingly.
In the international system, the meaning of a state's security strategy is to put forth its goals and its determination to achieve these goals in proportion to the power of that state. The states that have a say in the world prepare their strategy documents and revise them from time to time according to the developing situations.
US President Biden, who took over the office after the Trump Era, laid out her strategies against the developing situations in the world in the "US Interim National Security Strategy Document", which he published 45 days after she took office.
Biden said they would dodge new challenges by forming alliances
Biden, in his preface to the "Temporary National Security Strategy Document", declared that they are facing new challenges in the international environment where the dynamics are changing, and that they will eliminate these threats by renewing themselves and forming alliances. In the introductory part of the document, the increasing competition environment with authoritarian states such as China and Russia were mentioned, and it was stated that these could be solved with creative approaches. The states emphasized in the document in terms of alliance and cooperation were shown as NATO allies in Europe and Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Taiwan. Deepening partnership with India and New Zealand; Working together for common goals with Singapore, Vietnam and some ASEAN countries was also among the goals set.
Biden openly identified Russia and China as threats at the Berlin Security Conference in 2021
After the publication of this document, Biden's speech at the Munich Security Conference held in 2021 was curious.
Biden tried to please and reassure the European countries and the NATO alliance with the statements “The USA will remain loyal to the NATO alliance” (Deutsche Welle Turkish, 20 February 2021). In his speech, “The USA is back!” While saying that, he also admitted that in a sense the USA had gone so far. According to Biden, Russia and China were a threat to democracies. In the threat ranking, Moscow was ahead of China. He would then turn to Russia first. It already happened.
At the NATO Summit held on June 14, 2021, in the same year, the position of China and Russia was repeated, and closer cooperation with the countries in the Asia-Pacific region was emphasized.
At this stage, the USA will use NATO against China and Russia to cover countries starting from the Baltic, stretching from Eastern Europe and the Black Sea to Central Asia, and then over the Indian Ocean to the south of China and South Korea and Japan. The desire to build a new front was also evident.
QUAD, also called Asian NATO, should also be evaluated within the scope of the subject
When it comes to China, the QUAD (USA, Japan, Australia, and India) summits, which are described as "Asia's NATO", should also be mentioned. QUAD Summits really activate the geopolitical agenda in the region.
The geopolitical activity in the region had already started in 2020. Following the visit of senior American officials to India, in June and September 2020; Logistics agreements were signed with India, Australia and Japan, and defense cooperation was taken to the next level. India is also in the Western Indian Ocean; He had conducted large-scale exercises with Japan, the USA and Australia. At this time, Australia returned to the Malabar naval exercise after 13 years; Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England, on the other hand, tried to expand their ties with the region.
Biden, on the other hand, said the US would engage in "extreme competition" with China. Moving from the idea of building a new front against China in the Biden era, the attempt to mention the spirit of "QUAD" in the joint statements and the slogan of "free and open Indo-Pacific" pointed to the importance given to this organization.
The target country appears to be China
Since 2017, joint patrols and exercises against China by QUAD member countries also pointed to some changes. Besides transforming the alliance into a security cooperation, there was also the idea of using other Asian countries instead of China in the global supply chain by the USA.
Likewise, it is seen that the "Indo-Pacific" discourse, which has been used frequently recently, has been officially adopted by the member states.
Despite this, India is the country that has not fully clarified its situation among the QUAD countries, and besides South Korea and Japan, the position that India will take seems to determine the shaping of this region in the future.
Finally, Biden's statement, "The future of all of us and the world is shaped in the Indo-Pacific region," said at the QUAD Leaders' Summit on September 24, 2021, took its place in the document as the introductory word of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy Document.
Key Messages of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy Paper
The main components of the document and the points it emphasizes in terms of the USA can be briefly interpreted as follows.
- The United States of America is an Indo-Pacific power.
- This region is vital to the security and welfare of the United States. Billions of people in the Indo-Pacific will join the global middle class over the next decade. The prosperity of ordinary Americans is connected with the Indo-Pacific.
- The USA can only ensure its security if Asia is also safe.
- We strengthened our ties with the region by making solid alliance agreements with Australia, Japan and the Republic of South Africa.
- Under President Biden, we are determined to strengthen our long-term position and ties in the Indo-Pacific region.
- We cannot achieve our goals alone. We will defend our interests together with our allies and partners. our own strength: We will increase it by making investments, aligning our approaches with our allies, and strengthening the international system.
- We are facing challenges from the People's Republic of China in the region. This country will determine the next ten years. China is a powerful military, economic and technological power. Our aim is not to change China, but to shape the strategic environment.
- We will focus on every corner of the region, from Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia to South Asia and Oceania, including the Pacific.
- As the region enters a decisive decade of promises and obstacles, American power must be more effective and enduring than ever before.
- We must support a strong India as partners in the regional vision.
- The United States, together with our allies, will seek to achieve five goals in the region. These; Developing an open Indo-Pacific, creating connections within and outside the Region, creating regional welfare attractions, increasing security and resilience in the region.
- We will support the open society. Freedom of information and expression will be given importance in the region, the internet will be expanded, investigative journalism will be supported, and media literacy will be developed.
- Youth leaders will be supported; educational and professional exchanges and stagnant English education programs will be revived.
- Postgraduate studies and “human-to-human connected generation” in Australia, Japan, India will be supported.
- We will develop new commercial approaches. We will increase cross-border data flows. We will work with our partners to develop flexible and secure supply chains.
- We will promote free trade. We will equip emerging economies with our G7 partners.
- We will develop our capabilities to deter attacks with our allies and partners. We will prevent the forced change of borders; we will not allow the formation of a sovereign power in the seas.
- We will increase joint exercises. We will create flexible command and control systems. We will attach importance to cyberspace, space, and asymmetrical power.
- We will form alliances with Australia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, and Thailand. We will develop the Defense Partnership with India. We will work with our partners in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. We will develop measures to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
- We will strengthen security ties between our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
- We will bring our Indo-Pacific and European partners together in new ways, including through the AUKUS partnership.
- We will bring Japan to the level where it can deter and, if necessary, defeat North Korea. We will strengthen expanded deterrence and coordination with South Korea.
- We will cooperate against terrorism, biological threats, excessive currents, and cyber-attacks.
- We will enhance our resilience efforts in coordination with the G7, G20, APEC and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).
- In the next 12 to 24 months; We will build joint capacity, make new investments, establish embassies and consulates in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, develop consultancy, training and capacity in the region, increase security, establish digital connectivity and improve infrastructure.
- Determine, through partnership with AUKUS, the most appropriate route to deliver nuclear powered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy at the earliest possible date; Additionally, we will deepen capabilities (including cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and submarine capabilities).
- We will assume leadership roles in diplomacy, security, economy, climate, pandemic response, and technology.
- If we can strengthen the region together with our partners, the Indo-Pacific region will strengthen and develop the United States. Our important strategic goals stem from the belief that “no region will be more important to us than this”. By strengthening this shared strategy and its capacity to realize them, a United States can, together with its partners, move towards an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient for future generations.
With this document, it is understood that the USA will try to shape the region. Upon a detailed examination of the entire document, it is clear that the issues, which are quite comprehensive and inclusive, carry an overly optimistic mood. Japan and India are also the EU's first two "link partners" to work with to offer alternatives to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The colonial experience of India in the past pushes this country to be wary of Western countries. On the other hand, even AUKUS created in 2021 is enough to create a break and contradiction on its own. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to predict that the implementation of the points specified in the Strategy Document will begin to create some changes, confusion and ruptures in the region.
AUKUS connection and Fractures
So many international organizations are being formed in the region that in 2021 at this point; Even the "AUKUS" alliance, which was signed between the USA, England and Australia and formed from the initials of the countries, creates separation. After the AUKUS agreement signed by Australia, the USA and the UK on September 16, 2021, the cancellation of the US$ 66 billion contract, which foresees the construction of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines between Australia and the French Naval Group, is considered "betrayal" by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Yves Le Drian used the phrases "we were shot in the back" quite heavily.
It should also be noted that in the Indo-Pacific Strategy Document it published, France suggested that QUAD develop joint action plans against China in the region. In a way that will lay the groundwork for the military presence that France is trying to increase in this document; He talked about the military exercises held/to be held in the Gulf of Bengal, India and Australia, and which he considered as an ally at the time he prepared the text, but which he questions nowadays; It had also set a goal such that the military elements of QUAD countries, including the USA, India, Japan and Australia, could operate jointly.
However, the USA's limitation of alliance relations with an Anglo-Saxon line, and in this direction, its involvement with Australia in the AUKUS alliance controlled by the UK, suddenly excluded France from the region.
France's Indo-Pacific Strategy
France has an exclusive economic zone of 11.7 million km2, 93% of which is in the Indo-Pacific region, thanks to its overseas territory. This country had already published its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, named "France and Indo-Pacific Security", in May 2019. France, in the strategy in question; It has demonstrated its willingness to defend its interests in the Indo-Pacific and contribute to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region, together with its partners, primarily the USA, India, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam (Gouv.fr, 2019).
The introductory text of France's Asia-Pacific Strategy was written by President Macron. In the introduction, mentioning that more than 1.6 million French citizens and more than 7,000 French soldiers are located in the aforementioned geography; At this point, the "colonial" lands established tens of thousands of kilometers away from the French mainland were also evaluated under the concept of "sovereignty" and the right of self-determination of the peoples of the countries they colonized was ignored.
The French President's introductory letter: “Indo-Pacific should be one of our top priorities on our European agenda. I look forward to the Indo-Pacific strategy of the European Union”, while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in his presentation in the same document, emphasized the importance of the Indo-Pacific as “A significant part of the balances of the world of tomorrow is played out in the Indo-Pacific today”.
French Indo-Pacific Strategy; aims to strengthen the strategic partnership with India, especially in the areas of bilateral cooperation such as defense, civil nuclear energy, and space, and recently France and India; It develops cooperation in areas such as "maritime security", "internaval cooperation", "joint exercises", "Ocean governance" and "Blue Economy". It is seen that France does not want to give up its claim to be a world power with its old habits.
Germany attaches importance to developing strategic partnership with India
In 2018, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced the new vision of German foreign policy and stated that his country aims to play an important role in the preservation of the "multilateral world order". Then, on 02 September 2020, Germany adopted the doctrines that draw the strategic framework of German foreign policy, interests, principles, and objectives related to the Indo-Pacific region under the title “Germany-Europe-Asia: Shaping the 21st Century Together”.
Thus, Germany had determined a special strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. The statement in the document, "It is not the rule of the strong in the Indo-Pacific region, but the power of the rules should be decisive" emphasized that Germany wanted a rules-based world order.
Here, it is seen that France has determined a security-oriented strategy, as opposed to Germany's strategy for rules. Germany and France; Following the USA, Australia, India and Japan, the Indo-Pacific strategy instead of the Asia-Pacific can be considered as a response to China, as well as reflecting the idea of revealing its own presence in the region.
The EU's view of the Indo-Pacific Region
The adoption of strategies for the Indo-Pacific Region by the EU in a short time was met with surprise by many countries. It can be said that the impatience of France's desire to use the EU as a tool in achieving its goals in the region played a role in this. Another reason can be considered as the concern of being exposed to an AUKUS-like exclusion of British-US cooperation again.
At the summit, where Indian Prime Minister Modi met with the EU Heads of State in May 2021, the desire of both sides to develop cooperation in the region came to the fore. During France's EU presidency, the "Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum" was held on February 22, 2022, and the main regional partners, especially India, were invited to Paris. At this meeting, the Indian Foreign Minister made strong statements that Europe should play an active role in the Indo-Pacific region and emphasized that the EU-India partnership has been greatly strengthened. Despite this, only time will tell what extent India's non-alignment policy and its distant stance towards Western imperialist countries, which gained its independence in 1947, will change. Moreover, India does not seem to have forgotten the attitude taken by the USA against India by sending the 7th Fleet to the Indian Ocean in the events of 1971. As a result, India's being a party to the balances in the region will definitely have consequences in terms of regional security.
As a result; As in many other issues, Brzezinski misjudged the issue of China and said that "it cannot become a serious political threat to the international system in at least ten years and in the long run" (Brzezinski, 2005: 153). Now there is talk of other things. At this point, writing alone is not enough, the wrong calculation is returning from Baghdad.
With the strategy documents it has prepared, the USA seems to want to put pressure on China with much less effort by forming alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, just as it took countries, especially European countries, with it in the Russia-Ukraine Crisis. But nothing goes as planned, in real life plans rarely go as expected.
It is seen that the Indo-Pacific region, which gains importance day by day economically, militarily, and politically, attracts more and more attention and has become an important competitive area. These rivalry relations and fictions play a role in the basis of many confusions, problems or alliance formations that are still taking place in the region.
Understanding the current and future situation of this change will only be possible with a realistic evaluation of the strategy documents of the countries interested in the region. On the other hand, time will show how realistic the prepared documents are and how accurate the assumptions are.
It has been observed that extra-regional interventions do not always bring peace. Moreover, every foreign intervention; It is also obvious that it creates confusion, ethnic conflicts and problems. Whatever the case, it is certain that the countries in the region and their peoples will suffer the most if excessive ambitions and competitive conflicts disrupt the environment of peace and security in the region.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. (2005). Is the Choice Global Domination? Global Leadership? Inkılap Bookstore: Istanbul.
Deutsche Welle Turkish, 20 February 2021.
Geography and History, Kurt Vowinckel Press: Berlin, Germany.Gouv.fr (2019). France and Security in the Indo-Pacific. Citation Date: 15.04.2022.
Haushofer, Karl. (1924). Pacific Ocean Geopolitics – Studies on Relationships Between
Heiduk Felix, Wacker Gudrun. (2020). From Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific: significance, implementation and challenges. Research Report. From Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific: significance, implementation and challenges (ssoar.info).
Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States (Washington, DC: The White House, 11 February 2022.