A free and open Indo-Pacific: Regional and global implications

Chinese expansion has Japan’s and India’s prime ministers seeking U.S. support
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, would prefer not to be left one-on-one with an expansive China (source: dpa)
  • U.S. security strategy still aims at “stable and open” orders in key regions, like Asia
  • Japan, India and to a lesser degree Australia seek a framework to deal with China
  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue provides a handy basis, but has its drawbacks
  • The goal of a larger regional architecture, or even a “Quad plus,” remains distant

One of the techniques devised for managing the ascent of China and its destabilizing regional impact is the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” This idea, embraced by the governments of Japan, India and the United States, includes military, economic, political, legal and diplomatic dimensions. For the moment, it does not envision creating a new multinational framework. Rather, the states hope to work through existing forums such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to achieve their objectives.

The free and open Indo-Pacific is not intended to isolate or contain China; rather, its strategic aim is to mitigate the disruption caused by China’s expanding power and influence by encouraging the region’s sovereign states to cooperate more. Ideally, the result would be to reinforce international norms, provide security guarantees, strengthen civil society and offer free market alternatives to economic development.

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