India sharpens focus on Asia-Pacific region

04/16/2019

New Delhi, Apr. 16: In a show of intent, India has rearranged three of its foreign office divisions to impart a sharper diplomatic focus to the Asia-Pacific region. The move symbolically aligns with the US move a year back of renaming its Pacific military command as the US Indo-Pacific Command.

The new Asia-Pacific division of the Ministry of External Affairs will comprise the three earlier divisions of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN and the Quad sections.

The ASEAN division handles the 10 member countries of this South-East Asian grouping, Quad deals with India’s confabulations on a joint maritime strategy with Australia, Japan and the US while IORA keeps an eye on a loose grouping of about two dozen Indian Ocean Littoral countries with the marked exception of Pakistan and China.

The move symbolises the shift in Indian strategic thinking from considering just the maritime arc from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca as its zone of influence to extending it to the Western Pacific. But sources said more than frontloading its military intention as in the case of the US, India’s accent is on economic front while keeping its powder dry for visualising the South China Sea as a military pressure point vis-à-vis China in conjunction with the Quad and some ASEAN countries.

The combined division will be in a better position to coordinate India’s foray into broadly five areas in military and trade such as trade and investment, maritime safety and security, fishery management, disaster risk reduction and relief and promotion of tourism.

The move symbolises the shift in Indian strategic thinking from considering just the maritime arc from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca as its zone of influence to extending it to the Western Pacific. But sources said more than frontloading its military intention, as in the case of the US, India’s accent is on the economic front. The Tribune

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