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Indonesia and India have its own vision of the Indo-Pacific. Will such vision clash with China’s and the US visions?

Indian-Indonesian military cooperation also worries China

Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

The Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) is a geopolitical area that comprises parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. But there is more to it than that. The maritime domain is indeed an important theater for geopolitical competition. The rise of Chinese power across both the Pacific and Indian Ocean certainly challenges the very notion of a “security umbrella” (this notion persisted even after the end of the Cold War). Thus, the new geopolitical construct of the “Indo-Pacific” may be an attempt to deal with new realities. But theoretical constructs not only attempt to describe reality – they also may shape and change it. One could think of it as a war of concepts. The core of such “conceptual warfare” is to propose and to construct views and models through diplomatic talk and through the production of documents. In this arena, different visions often clash. Sometimes, they complement each other. It turns out Indonesia might have its own view of the IPR. It also has a strategic partnership with India which could further develop.

The seas that connect the Indian Ocean to the central Pacific Ocean run through the general area of Indonesia, giving it a strategic location. Jakarta has always aspired to become an unofficial leader of the ASEAN, which in its turn is a major partner of the Shangai Cooperation Organization. It is indeed the biggest economy and the largest country in the ASEAN group. One could say Indonesia has recently been quite successful in establishing its presence as an important player both in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

On July 27th something important happened: Indonesia and India agreed to further expand their strategic cooperation in a number of areas, including technology sharing and industries. Further expanding their security and military ties was also discussed. According to some sources, there were talks about exporting Indian BrahMos cruise missiles to Indonesia and also about increasing security cooperation in the ocean. Chinese activities in Eastern Ladakh (a disputed Indian-Chinese border) must have been a topic – but no public statement was made. On June 15, the Chinese army attacked and killed 20 Indian soldiers there in the most fatal clash between the 2 countries in 4 decades (the number of Chinese soldiers killed in the standoff remains unknown). Such incident obviously increased tensions in the region. So far, troops on both sides haven’t fully disengaged. On top of that, according to an Asian News International report on Wednesday (19), India is now building a  road connecting Ladakh (for better troop movement).

Indonesia and India have a shared history of colonialism as well as civilizational ties which go back over two millennia. Geopolitically, both countries share the Indian Ocean maritime space. And both signed the “Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” in 2018.

For Russia, the Indo-Pacific is a doorway for the East. For India and Indonesia, it is a northern doorway, bringing resources from the Arctic region to Asia. India’s concept of the Indo-Pacific may complement the so called Greater Eurasia project. For the US, in their turn, the IPR stretches from the American West Coast to the western seashores of India. In line with previous administrations, Trump has been pushing the notion of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” since 2017. Critics have compared such notion to former president Obama’s “Rebalance Strategy”.

China so far has often viewed the notion of the Indo-Pacific as an “exclusive” concept and as a containment – it would be merely an American strategy to connecting the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, thus constraining China while maintaining American hegemony in the region. Some Chinese scholars, however, believe the concept may mature into something more interesting (from a Chinese perspective) and recently the Chinese media started using the term. One could call such game a kind of conceptual warfare.  Of course, the “Quad” – the quadrilateral group of India, Australia, Japan and the US –  still worries China, which perceives it as a potential “Asian NATO”. Basically, China “welcomes” an inclusive Indo-Pacific, as long as India and other countries dissociate themselves from the Quad. Indonesia’s attitude towards the Quad remains quite ambivalent, in line with its traditional “independent” (bebas dan aktif) foreign policy.

More concretely, Indian-Indonesian military cooperation certainly worries China also. Since 2005, India and Indonesia have a strategic partnership which includes maritime security cooperation. In 2014, there were Indian-Indonesia joint naval exercises, for example – with an increased number of navy vessels.

India and Indonesia have each their own views on the IPR, close as they may seem to be at times. Will such views clash with China’s own view? Can the IPR and Greater Eurasia complement each other? Will the US really use the geopolitical concept of IPR to project their influence and their own view of the Indo-Pacific onto other Asian countries? Time will tell. Be it as it may, countries in the region – such as Indonesia – have a say in the future of the Indo-Pacific. And both China and the US will need to keep that in mind.

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BobValdez
BobValdez
August 27, 2020

I’m confused. Since when did the Asia-Pacific suddenly become the “Indo-Pacific?
The only country ‘Indo’ in the area is Indonesia. There is no INDIA next to the Pacific Ocean, so it is NOT the ‘Indo-Pacific. That “indo’ area is called the INDIAN Ocean, you know, the one next to INDIA?

Clarity
Clarity
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

It’s not enough to just read the headlines, must read article. It’s explained there.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Clarity
August 27, 2020

India and Indonesia are NOT the same countries. The western Pacific is called the ASIA-PACIFIC region. There is NO India in this area. Indonesia is NOT the major country in the western Pacific. Only the seppos call it the “Indo-Pacific”, because they can’t read maps.

Clarity
Clarity
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

Based on Cambridge dictionary, Indo, as prefix has a meaning related to India or Indian Subcontinent. The terms coming from the Greeks and Persians who called the land of the river Hindus/Sindhu, Indos, the place of grand rivers, India.

But hey, I learned a new word today from Oz. Not that it applies to me.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  Clarity
August 28, 2020

If you mean “seppos”, I learned a new word today too. I’ve heard it before but hadn’t looked up the definition until today. “Septic tanks”. Hilarious. I love rhyming slang.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

And furthermore India and Indonesia pursue different politics. To mingle them into one stew seems to be rather incompetent on the writer’s part.

Clarity
Clarity
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
August 27, 2020

you are confusing Indonesia with the Philippines

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Clarity
August 27, 2020

Yes, that’s right. President Duterte is leader of the Philippines, I do not even know the name of the President of Indonesia. Thanks for pointing it out.

Regarding Indonesia, they have a good relationship to Russia, they buy arms there. I do not know anything about their relationship to China, though.

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  BobValdez
August 28, 2020

Maybe the confusion lies here: “Trump has been pushing the notion of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” since 2017″. Seppo geography at work?

It might also have something to do with the term Indo-China, which was coined in the early 19th century and later adopted as the name of the colony of French Indochina (today’s Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos). “Indochina” is generally frowned upon since it is an insensitive reminder of colonialism. It’s even more of an insult to call the people of that region “Indochinese”.

Black Picard
Reply to  BobValdez
August 28, 2020

And isn’t it strange that Hindu India always has hostilities towards an Islamic Pakistan (although Pak has a corrupt Deep State!) yet they seem comfy with the Islamic Indonesians. This tells me right away that, in general, Indian politicians are either wishy-washy nor can they be trusted — or both. Just look at how quickly India gave Iran the cold shoulder while the imbecile Modi jetted off to the US to embrace the alleged “deal maker” Trump. So India — a country that was colonially raped by the British Anglo Saxons — always seems to have their colonial massa’s backs. Can… Read more »

Smoking Eagle
Smoking Eagle
Reply to  Black Picard
August 28, 2020

I have never been to China so I have no experience of the Chinese on their home turf but there are at least 50 million Chinese living outside China and in my experience in different parts of the world, including where I live in Canada, I have found that they make very good citizens. They are generally quiet, hardworking and industrious, and their children are good students and take education seriously. I was once about to embark on a month of mountain hiking, camping and diving with my daughter in Panama where we were going to run into cold temperatures… Read more »

Black Picard
Reply to  Smoking Eagle
August 29, 2020

Glad you liked the TED Talk, Smoking Eagle. It was an eye opener to me, too. Are you still hiking in Panama? My advice? Stay there! Things are really FUBAR in the North American division of 5-Eyes. Um, I think I’ll continue to avoid Canada for a good while longer. Here’s why: Platon on August 20, 2020 · at 12:47 pm EST You make an important point. Everything we know of Freeland is ugly; her association with Soros, (he was a sort of Svengali to her as he is to the mentally ill and otherwise unemployable women of FEMEN, and… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
August 27, 2020

India and Indonesia do not sit on the same ship. Indonesia’s President Dutarte has allied his country with China and Russia. He is not interested in the USA.

Clarity
Clarity
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
August 27, 2020

Duterte is President of the Philippines.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Clarity
August 27, 2020

Duh.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

Well, Bob, he is right, of course. I got Indonesia and the Phillippines mixed up. What both countries have in common, is that they entertain a good relationship with Russia.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
August 27, 2020

“India and Indonesia do not sit on the same ship. The Philipines’s President Dutarte has allied his country with China and Russia. He is not interested in the USA.”

Corrected it for you, Olivia.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

Thanks, Bob. This is perfect now. We could even add one sentence more, without being wrong (again!):

“India and Indonesia do not sit on the same ship. The Philipines’ President Dutarte has allied his country with China and Russia. He is not interested in the USA. Indonesia is also a close ally of Russia. Both, Indonesia and the Philippines, by arms in Russia.”

Here we go, excellent team work. We should write a book together, maybe ….

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
August 27, 2020

Wikipedia:

In late 2007, Indonesia purchased military weapons from Russia with long term payment. Indonesian airlines also were considering purchasing the Sukhoi Superjet 100 from Russia.

According to the Russian defence ministry, on 7 December 2017 two nuclear-capable Tu-95 strategic bombers flew a patro from Biak Island in Papua-Indonesia.

The Russian commander stated the navigation exercises were for the purpose of checking the accuracy of long-distance flying over the seas.

Military cooperation:
Russia is a major arms supplier to Indonesia. Russian arms exports to Indonesia include helicopters and fighter jets.

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