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Leaders and senior policy figures from Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, and the United States are increasingly using the term “Indo-Pacific” or similar language in speeches and statements.Even where the precise wording differs there is increasingly an intersection between the idea of the Indo-Pacific and terminology used by policy leaders to describe the changing regional order.Canberra has a unique role here: it is a middle power in the gathering Indo-Pacific strategic game, in multiple ways.These include its relative diplomatic influence, its unusual two-ocean geography, its proximity to and monitoring oversight of the crucial sea lanes connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and its perceived status as a state that—despite being a close US ally—is also developing important economic, societal, and even security relations with multiple Asian powers.Notable among these is the “Maritime Silk Road” idea, which China under President Xi Jinping has promoted since late 2013 as a way to define its economic and diplomatic engagement across the Indian Ocean and beyond.The evolution of India’s “Look East” policy to an “Act East” agenda under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is part of a serious effort by India to become a more influential power east of Malacca.
This will have strategic implications, not least on managing the growth of China’s power and interests.
Together, these developments are making the Indo-Pacific the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity.
The reality of an Indo-Pacific region has been brought about by a confluence of economic and strategic factors.
This thickening of economic and strategic interaction between China and India is a major part of the Indo-Pacific story.
This relationship is almost certain to keep expanding as the two powers’ wealth, military capabilities, and strategic interests continue to grow, and an Indo-Pacific context for their interactions, competitive or even cooperative, becomes more obvious.
To some degree, the same can even be said of the Republic of Korea, which has undertaken lethal and effective special forces action against pirates in the Gulf of Aden; is developing “blue-water” or oceangoing naval capabilities in part to contribute to the protection of its energy-supply lifelines; and which, since 2011, has deployed 150-strong special-forces contingents to the United Arab Emirates on rotation to train local forces in counter-terrorism and to protect South Korea nationals and interests.