QUAD

This handout photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on 17 November 2020 shows ships taking part in the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea. India, Australia, Japan and the United States started the second phase of a strategic navy drill in the Northern Arabian sea. (Indian Navy/AFP)

Indo-Pacific: The central theatre of 21st century great power struggle

ISEAS academic Daljit Singh notes that the new great power contest has spilled over into the Indian Ocean, and the term “Indo-Pacific” will better reflect the strategic geography of this central theatre of the 21st century great power struggle.
Small cargo boats docked by Male harbour, Maldives. (iStock)

Maldives: Even a tiny state in the Indo Pacific has a big role in China-US competition

The Maldives is well aware that it is of a geostrategic importance to powers seeking to dominate the Indian Ocean and what some term the Indo-Pacific. It has responded well to China’s overtures in the past, but with political pushback against China, and other suitors, not least India and the US, calling on its door, how best should it play its cards?
This photo taken on 11 December 2020 shows tourists looking at an illuminated ice sculpture at the Changchun ice and snow grand world in Changchun, Jilin province, China. (STR/AFP)

A multipolar world order is good for us all

Zheng Weibin asserts that the US will soon be stepping back into an international arena that is much changed. The US cannot hope to regain a unipolar dominance, if it arguably ever had it. Rather, a multipolarity ruled by regional pockets of issues-based interests is taking shape, starting in Asia.
Admiral Philip S. Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command meets with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his courtesy call at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, 22 October 2020. (Kyodo via REUTERS)

A leaders' word game: 'Secure and prosperous' vs 'free and open' Indo-Pacific

With the incoming Biden administration using the term "secure and prosperous" in place of "free and open" to refer to the Indo-Pacific, Japanese academic Shin Kawashima explores what this might mean for the future of the region and the roles played by Japan, China, and the US.
US President-elect Joe Biden listens as he holds a video conference meeting with members of the US Conference of Mayors at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US, 23 November 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Now more than ever, Southeast Asia values a firm American security presence

President-elect Joe Biden will restore a more traditional style of diplomacy to the US, but domestic considerations will weigh heavily on American foreign policy — and Washington’s approach to Southeast Asia.
Democratic US presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks during a drive-in campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, US, 30 October 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

America needs to value Southeast Asia for its own sake, and not just as a tool to fight China

Following years of neglect under the Trump administration, the Biden administration will need to get both its words and actions right to rebuild trust in the US in Southeast Asia. And one of the fundamentals of building a good relationship is to genuinely listen and respond to Southeast Asians about their interests and priorities, rather than just treating them as tools to counter China's influence.  
An electric-rickshaw transports passengers along a street in the old quarters of New Delhi on 15 September 2020. (Jewel Samad/AFP)

Hostile ties with China make it impossible for India to return to RCEP

Without India, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) stops short of being a regional construct for the Indo-Pacific, says ISAS academic Amitendu Palit. However, India is unlikely to reconsider its decision in the foreseeable future because of its worsening relations with China. While China has expressed its interest to be part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), might India’s domestic concerns lead it to miss the boat once again, to its own detriment?
A girl sits on the shoulders of her father outside the Forbidden City during the national day marking the 71st anniversary of the People's Republic of China and the country's national "Golden Week" holiday in Beijing on 1 October 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

RCEP: The start of a new ‘China-centric’ order?

RCEP, the largest free trade agreement signed thus far, includes China, Japan and South Korea — the largest, second, and fourth largest economies in Asia. This heralds a new Asian era, says Zheng Weibin. Apart from the pure economic benefits that this will bring, the fact that the US is not a part of the grouping gives China some leverage against moves from the US such as its military presence in East Asia and attempts to reforge alliances against China. In this game of move and countermove, who will be the first to say "checkmate"?
A girl sits next to the paintings of US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on display alongside a road in Mumbai, India, 8 November 2020. (Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters)

India gets ready for shifts in US-China relations under Biden 

Much in the manner that a poor and a turbulent China became a critical element in the US-Soviet competition during the 1970s, even a weak India could have some bearing on the evolution of the Asian balance of power, vis-à-vis US-China relations, says Prof C. Raja Mohan. In recent years under the Trump administration, Delhi ended its historic hesitations about deeper military and security cooperation with the US by embracing the Indo-Pacific strategy and helping to revive the Quad. What will be the future direction of India-US relations under the new Biden presidency? What would that mean for China?