The Indo-Pacific will play a much larger role in US foreign policy, with Asia being the top priority, according to political experts.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are in Japan and South Korea This week we are visiting Washington’s two major military allies in Asia, where tens of thousands of troops are stationed.
Last Friday, President Joe Biden met the Prime Ministers of Japan, India and Australia virtually as part of the first summit of an informal strategic alliance – the Quadrangular Security Dialogue, or Quad as it is known.
“Asia is a priority,” said Angela Mancini, a partner at Control Risks, on CNBC’s “Capital Connection” Monday. She said that based on last week’s Quad meeting, as well as the general diplomacy that is taking place with the current administration, the US is making very clear that the Indo-Pacific region is important to Washington – compared to the previous administration’s transactional approach.
President Joe Biden, top left, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, top right, Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, bottom left, and Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, on a monitor during the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) virtual meeting at Suga’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan on Friday March 12, 2021.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“In addition to strengthening alliances to potentially counter China, there are also some specific bilateral issues that we need to address,” Mancini said, adding that this includes the presence of US troops in the region.
The Biden administration builds on the framework the Trump administration left on the Indo-Pacific strategy and is developing a coalition of partners to work with, according to Akhil Bery, a South Asia analyst with the Eurasia Group’s political risk advisory group .
The spate of diplomatic activity in Asia by US officials comes ahead of Blinken’s meeting with Chinese officials Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi in Alaska on March 18.
The informal Quad Alliance is committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
According to Harsh Pant, director of the strategic studies program at the Observer Research Foundation in New, the group will have a much more prominent role in the region going forward, possibly becoming “a core of a larger regional security architecture” in Delhi.
For more than a decade, even after the geopolitical tensions between the USA and China worsened from 2017 onwards, the Quad has been poor, followed by India-China relations are deteriorating, Pant said on CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Monday. The group’s profile has risen in recent months, he said.
Last year India invited Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercises next to the USA and Japan. New Delhi resisted Canberra’s participation for years, considering that the move would provoke Beijing.
Pant said India appears to be reassessing its policy towards China after being a “fence sitter” in the greater balance of power in the region. New Delhi is now making “the reasons for joining certain platforms very clear,” he added.
The joint declaration of the Quad last Friday avoided any direct mention of China and its foreign policy in the region and instead focused on areas such as efforts to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.
This agreement is already a “significant step forward” and shows that the group is capable of delivering tangible results rather than just talking about the China challenge, “Eurasia Group’s Bery told CNBC via email .
It remains to be seen how far the Biden government can get allies to look at developments in the region from a multilateral perspective, but it is likely that Beijing will push back, Control Risks’ Mancini said.
“China feels like it is surrounded by the US, and that feeling is real and growing, and so with their own investment in tech spending and their own focus on the domestic economy, they will push back,” she said.