- Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific: Perspectives from China, India and the United States ed. by Mohan Malik
Against the backdrop of the shift in global economic power to Asia, the emergence of Asian Great Powers — China and India especially — and America’s “pivot” to Asia, the Indo-Pacific concept has gained salience. Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific: Perspectives from China, India and the United States could not, therefore, have been more timely. Organized into four distinct parts, this volume captures the essence of contemporary debates on the prospects for and challenges to multilateral cooperation in a geostrategic construct straddling two of the world’s most important oceans. Contributors from the academic and policymaking communities, representing Chinese, Indian and Western perspectives, make for a balanced analysis.
In a concise Introduction, Mohan Malik provides an overview of contemporary Indo-Pacific security developments and key research questions which neatly sets the stage for subsequent discussions.
Part One, “Mapping the Indo-Pacific Region”, represents a noteworthy attempt to make sense of the Indo-Pacific concept that has found salience in academic and policy discourses. Rory Medcalf gives an excellent overview of the historical and contemporary background to the concept. In the following chapter Yang Yi and Zhao Qinghai go on to argue that its emergence has been closely linked to the evolving strategic agendas of New Delhi and Washington. The two chapters in Part I shed light not just on the conceptual underpinnings of the term “Indo-Pacific”, but also highlight that this concept itself is not entirely new. As Medcalf succinctly puts it, this concept is “back in name and substance”. The Indo-Pacific — which he describes as a strategic system with fluid boundaries but some clear defining features — include the economic and security connections between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and intersecting interests and reach of several key powers such as China, India and the United States. (p. 45) Recent developments, for instance the growing prominence of this term being used in the policy discourses of these key powers and the rapidly-growing economic and strategic importance of the region vis-à-vis Europe, thus far attest to this observation.
Part Two, “US, Chinese and Indian Perspectives on Maritime Security”, provides a concise treatment of issues revolving around national perceptions of and outlook for the Indo-Pacific security [End Page 137] milieu. Scott W. Harold’s exposition on the “opportunity-pull/demand-push” factors, looking at, for example, the growing energy reliance of the East Asian economic powerhouses on the Middle East, Chinese and Indian naval build-ups, shifts in the US security posture, and common security challenges, provides an interesting framework for analysing the driving forces behind possible maritime cooperation among China, India and America. From a Chinese perspective, Zhao Gancheng utilizes the angle of Great Power geopolitical dynamics and makes an interesting observation that Beijing has no Indian Ocean strategy. This point deserves more attention, judging from China’s more recent moves in the Indian Ocean including the deployment of its 19th naval task force to the Gulf of Aden counter-piracy mission since December 2008, its military-assisted non-combatant evacuation operations in the Middle East and North Africa and its military aid to the Maldives during its water shortage crisis in December 2014. In the following chapter Sureesh Mehta expounds on the Indian perspectives from a similar geopolitical angle, but sets his analysis within a broader framework of Sino-Indian geopolitical dynamics. On the whole, all three chapters agree that while trilateral cooperation is desirable for dealing with a myriad of Indo-Pacific transnational security challenges, the lack of strategic trust among the three major players constitutes a key challenge to realizing that cooperation.
Part Three, “Traditional and Nontraditional Security Challenges”, furnishes a broad, largely descriptive, overview of contemporary Indo-Pacific security challenges and the prospects for cooperation. Most contributors agree that transnational, non-traditional security challenges provide a potential platform for trilateral cooperation. But the issues raised in Part Three can be found...