Understanding US Indo Pacific Policy
US Secretary of State Michel R. Pompeo during his speech at US Chamber of Commerce on 30th July 2018 thoroughly outlined Trump’s administration new Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Strategy. To keep US influence alive all over the globe US policy makers keep her engaged with important player states of every region through trade and defense pacts and activities. The existence of American power and her influence in the region of Asia, Indian Ocean and linked areas has always been remained an important priority for US policy makers especially after the emergence of China as an important regional economic and political player. To contain China’s growing influence in the region USA in the past concluded an agreement with the name of Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) but later she withdrew her signature and so the agreement never ratified.
To contain China’s fast growing economy and political influence in the region USA took first step in 2005 when the then President George W. Bush signed an agreement with India, recognizing her as a nuclear power state. Since then both countries through different agreements have come too close and now we see that US policy makers by keeping India as an important player have designed a new policy with name of Free and Open Indo Pacific (FOIP) Strategy for Asia and surrounding Areas. FOIP Strategy is one of the latest steps taken by America to block China’s growing influence in the region.
What is FOIP Strategy?
As per Alex Wong, Deputy Assistant Secretary at East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy is focused on two modifiers, that is, free and open. By Free US policy makers mean to keep and ensure the freedom of Indo-Pacific region states and of its people from any kind of foreign coercion while following any social, political and economic policy both at national and international level.
Similarly according to Alex by Open USA means both to keep sea lines of communication and airways open and also ensure greater regional integration and economic growth through infrastructural development.
Other objectives of US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, as per Alex Wong, are to ensure and promote more open trade and free and fair investment opportunities in the region. But we know that USA for the past seven decades apparently is doing so then what is the difference between FOIP Strategy and past policies of USA?
Difference Between FOIP And US Past Policies For The Region
There are two major differences between USA FOIP Strategy and previous policies for Asia Pacific region.
First FOIP acknowledge the importance of South Asia and in particularly of India in Pacific, East Asia and Southeast Asia region.
Secondly it endorses India to play a key role in sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions of the region because as per US policy makers it is in the best interest of both the region and USA.
US Allegations Over China
The 2017 Trump’s National Security Strategy described Indo-Pacific as a region where geopolitical competition is going on between free and repressive version of world order and where China through its economic inducement and penalties and implied military threats is forcing other states of the region to heed to her political and security agenda.
What are the objectives of FOIP strategy?
Though US FOIP Strategy apparently aims at the development of peace and prosperity in the region but as per few political analysts there are some hidden objectives of US behind FOIP Strategy as well which are;
US FOIP Strategy is openly directed at Beijing. She considered the rise of undemocratic China a threat for the security of Asian nations. USA no longer views China as a competitor and potential partner in the region.
Only China’s fast growing economic and political power and influence in the region is not headache for US policy makers. The resurgence of Russia too is a matter of serious concern for them. By empowering India in the region, it is believed that US want to minimize the chances of flow of total regional political power in the hands of two non-democratic states, Russia and China.
In the name of Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy USA also wants to strengthen her military capabilities and increased her defense grounds in the region against China.
India’s Role in FOIP strategy
India seems willing to become a part of US FOIP Strategy. Apparently she looks at it as an opportunity for modernization of military and boosting her economy by gaining more access to US and western economic markets. In this regard a Two plus Two (2 + 2) dialogue was held in New Delhi in September 2018 in which from US side US Secretary of State Michel R. Pmpeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis while from Indian side Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met. After meeting Michel Pompeo said that “India and the United States have a natural starting point for advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
As per Prashanth Parameswaran, regarding US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, globally there are three main areas of concern. These areas of concern include the real objective behind FOIP initiative, its implementation in real terms and the role of Southeast Asia and ASEAN states.