International Relations Scholars Workshop on Prospects and challenges to development cooperation in the Indo-pacific

By Team External Relations Aug 23, 2021

"The interests of India, the posture of Japan, the adjustments by the Americans, the ambitions of China, the confidence of Australia and the awareness of the ASEAN, will help reinvent the Indo-Pacific" S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, Government of India from his book: 'The India Way: Strategies for an uncertain world', Page.183, published in 2020 by Harper Collins

The evolution of Indo-Pacific as a development strategy is an important area of research on diplomacy that any student of International Relations (IR) must deal with in detail. Yet, it is so complex that it has to be appropriately demystified. The IR Scholars' Workshop on 'Opportunities and Challenges to Indo-Pacific Development Strategy' was organised to precisely address this issue and offer the students of IR a systematic way to understand the Indo-Pacific development cooperation. There are many aspects of the cooperation that has a direct connect with development, which needed in-depth analysis: some of which are – geopolitical issues, security cooperation, economic cooperation, climate change, disaster management, pandemic response, energy supply, trade and transport, maritime issues, besides many others. This Workshop is organised in partnership with the US Consulate Hyderabad. The objective of this partnership is to arrive at a revised roadmap for Indo-Pacific Regional Cooperation in the Post-Covid 19 World Order.

As a background, the Indo-Pacific is emerging as a new area of importance, driven by several strategic powers' common interests and convergences, each with its own set of influences and ambitions. The Indo-Pacific region comprises at least 38 countries that share 44% of the world surface area and 65% of the world population and account for 62% of world-GDP and 46% of the world's merchandise trade. About 60% of the world's maritime trade goes through the region, with nine out of ten busiest seaports globally. The region is also the world's most biodiverse area. It is observed that there has been geostrategic and geoeconomics shifts in the Indo-Pacific region, leading to complexities in development cooperation. There is a need to deploy a focused and holistic approach to understand the nuances of development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The Workshop attempted to systematically deal with this complex subject and address all three aspects of development strategy. Since equations with China with other important players in the Indo-Pacific theatre needed deeper understanding, a separate focus was attempted in this Workshop.

Overall, The Workshop had four stand-alone sessions led by some of the leading experts in India on the subject of Indo-Pacific Cooperation, security and strategy. The sessions focused on maritime policy, evolving geopolitics, security strategy and the rise of China.

The workshop proceedings started with a welcome and a theme address by DNV Kumara Guru, Director External Relations, ISB, who talked about the strong partnership with the US Consulate and touched upon the importance of discussions on the Indo-Pacific region. Sean Ruthe, Chief, Political and Economic Section, U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad, in his special address, shared the U.S perspective of Indo-Pacific Strategy to emphasise their approach based on three pillars – Security, Governance and Economic Partnership, and that it is not in their agenda to contain China. US is keen to explore partnerships on climate Change, R&D investment, technology, and trade in the Indo-Pacific. Four stand-alone Expert Sessions followed this.

  • In the first session, Vice-Admiral Girish Luthra (Retd), Distinguished Fellow, ORF, gave an overview of the Security and Development dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region. He elaborated in detail about the Indo-Pacific as a coherent strategic space, current and emerging challenges, cooperation, and India's maritime interests. He opined that there is increased convergence on strengthening stability and maritime security in the region. The Quad members - Australia, India, Japan and the US - and others like France, UK, and now the EU have strong convergence in free and open Indo-Pacific; rule-based regional order; connectivity; climate change; maritime security cooperation and China as a challenge. However, India is not inclined to support the Quad's evolution into a military alliance.

  • In the second session, Professor Chintamani Mahapatra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, JNU, explained the evolving geopolitics and challenges to a stable, free, and open Indo-Pacific. He opined that China's growing assertiveness raises important geopolitical questions that would need an integrated deterrence by other major players in the Indo-Pacific. QUAD is a security dialogue process and not a group to counter China. China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has disruptive consequences for Indo-Pacific geopolitics and development.

  • In the third session, Amruta Karambelkar, Research Associate, Vivekananda Foundation, talked about security in the Indo-Pacific development strategy. She opines that China's BRI is bound to play an important role by filling the substantial infrastructural gaps in the Indo-Pacific and Central Asian region. The alternative strategies like – Blue Dot Network of the US, G-7's B3W, India's SAGAR are yet to develop & will be challenging to match the BRI. BRI is also evolving to be a health BRI & Digital BRI.

  • In the final session, Manoj Kewalramani, Chairperson, Indo-Pacific Research Programme, at Takshishala Institution, points out that China has had a fragmented approach towards the Indo-Pacific. At one level, it has sought to use its economic clout and military capacity to its advantage. At another, it sought to make tactical adjustments with India, Japan and the US. But increasingly, it seems that Beijing believes a systemic competition is taking shape in the region, resulting in it adopting a more assertive posture.

  • David Moyer, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Hyderabad, delivered concluding remarks and reiterated the current deliberations' importance in shaping strong Indo-US relations and more robust Indo-Pacific Cooperation. Dr Sridhar Bhagavatula, ISB, moderated the daylong Workshop.

  • Around 150 scholars representing various universities and institutions across the country attended the workshop.